Surviving unkindness - when it's coming from all sides...
You know that feeling - that you're in over your head, everything is going wrong, it's all too much to deal with. Sometimes it seems that unkindness is in charge.
You think "what on earth was I thinking?" and maybe "why was I so stupid?" You're struggling not to end up on the rocks - like a kite surfer whose struggles I saw with some horror, in very rough seas off Island Bay.
Unkindness hits in all kinds of ways -
- in the harsh environments we're exposed to,
- in unhelpful/inadequate resources and lack of support to care for us,
- when we lack preparation or help to become aware of hazards we might face, and haven't been able to develop the skills we might need to manage,
- in the ways we learn to treat ourselves - disappointment, criticism, undermining our confidence.
But just as unkindness hits us, kindness can soften the hurt, and make us better -
- we can avoid harsh and uncaring settings - places where there is deliberate harm or thoughtless neglect. The kite surfer could have decided not to go out in such rough seas.
- we can make sure that there is help and support when we are in unknown or difficult situations. The kite surfer could have worn a life jacket, or been out there with buddies rather than going it alone, so that there was someone who could help if he got into difficulty.
- we can strengthen skills: awareness, noticing what we are dealing with; practices which help us to stay safe and well despite difficulties we face; strengthening our confidence and resilience; becoming more able to take on bigger challenges. The kite surfer could have checked what he was going to face, and stayed in a more sheltered area (nowhere was calm!) where he could have had a very exciting but less dangerous time.
- we can always "have our back." We can encourage and comfort ourselves. We can speak to ourselves with a supportive attitude, and by accepting our slip-ups we can learn from them. Knowing that, we can be braver and more creative, and keep on learning. The kite surfer, I hope, had learned to have the confidence and the ability to manage such difficult conditions and his fear. With this attitude he would have gained experience and knowledge from the testing challenges he faced - and survived.
When I saw this kite surfer I was very concerned for him. He was out alone in very rough seas. It looked like he was having a terrible struggle. He was often hidden by the large waves. I wasn't confident that he was intending to go so close to the rocks. But evidently he had the skills, equipment and attitude that meant he got to shore safely.
Whew! I prefer things to be a bit less precarious.
What do you think you would most like to strengthen when you face the kinds of rough seas that happen in your life?
Can you see how kindness can be a great strengthener?