I’ve never overcome the habit of writing reminders on my hand. Sticky notes with quotes and to-dos plaster my desk, my car, my life. My favorite version is a T-shirt that has a simple phrase on it. Be a nice human. I need to become a nicer person. And I need to be reminded. I’m working on it and finally seeing little bits of progress. And I have found one thing that is key to getting along with humanity.
Humility. I finally realized I am no different, no better, no more advanced or intelligent than anyone else. I kicked my ego out of the driver’s seat, and it’s leading to an unexpected outcome – knowing I’m not superior to anyone actually makes me nicer. And it has made a world of difference. Because when I’m nice to people – all people – they are usually nice to me. Shocking, I know. This is basic, something we learn as toddlers. So why are we still so mean to each other? Maybe it’s because we forget to practice.
How do we practice humility?
The old cliché, put yourself in their shoes, comes to mind. But I like to go barefoot, so shoes don’t do it for me. I’m a writer – I put myself in the words.
Just this morning I found myself frustrated with someone for being lazy. They didn’t even want to try to solve a problem. I caught myself mid-rant, whining “WHY are people so LAZY?!?” I stopped, wrote down my complaint, and put myself in the words. WHY am I so LAZY?!?
Can I picture times when I feel lazy? Oh, yeah. Don’t mess with my Sundays. I don’t want to do anything that people ask me to do on my day of rest. I go into my hammock-cocoon with a book and want to stay there for hours, uninterrupted. If you interact with me on a Sunday, it would be easy to assume I am always lazy. That would be far from the truth. Come Monday morning, I am up before the crack of dawn, oozing productivity from my pores.
So can I allow other people to have lazy moments? Can I just let them be in their own hammock-cocoon and patiently wait for their version of Monday-morning-productivity-oozing? Can I stop judging them for an infraction as small as picking a different lazy day than me?
It’s not easy to be a nice human. It takes practice. Repetition. Failures and re-boots. Baby steps.
How can we baby step our way into nicer living?
- Catch yourself in the act. I was shocked at how often I was whining and judging and spewing negativity on social media. Now every time I catch myself, I cancel the post and just pout instead. (Yes, pouting. These are baby steps! I can’t become a saint overnight!) I hope Facebook isn’t storing all my cancelled posts to use against me someday. THAT would humble me in a hurry!
- Put down one weapon at a time. It wasn’t just social media. I liked to email, text, and call people to vent my grievances with the world. Gossiping in person? Guilty. I’m trying to tackle this one weapon at a time – this week it’s texting. Maybe next week I’ll be strong enough to stop whining through email. Maybe.
- Trade the negative for positive. That frustration with lazy I mentioned almost became a text to my husband, hoping he would support my complaining. Instead, it became this blog post. I have to remember not to drag others into my issue, but lift others up with my learning. I should have learned this from the river of slime in Ghostbusters 2, but apparently I’m still working on it.
- Put yourself in the situation. Like I mentioned above, I like to write out my frustration and then put myself in the sentence. But you can also just picture this in your mind. Catch yourself mid-rant, close your eyes and remember the last time you did a similar action. You probably had a good reason for it, and so does the person you are skewering right now. The imagery creates empathy which stops judgment in its tracks.
- Downgrade the infraction. My issue with the lazy person wasn’t really that they were lazy. It was that their lazy time didn’t match up with my lazy time. When I push past the first impression to attach reality to the problem, it suddenly seems silly to be worked up over something so small. Silly becomes just the distraction I need to move on.
- Make up stories. Sometimes people do things that I’m just not in the mood to understand, and humility escapes me. This is not a reason to give up on being nice. This is a reason to get creative. Why can’t the airline figure out their pilot’s hours so my flight doesn’t get cancelled? I could be rational about it and recognize how hard it is to coordinate thousands of people flying at warp speeds across the planet. I could be in awe of the entire flight system in general. I could be grateful they didn’t allow a sleepy pilot to hurl me through the atmosphere in a flammable hunk of metal. But when I’m super cranky from sitting in the airport for 6 hours with impatient children and these people can’t do a simple thing like communicate, it’s best if I just picture snakes on the plane. Massive, nasty, poisonous snakes. I mean, they HAVE to get those things off before I get on, so really, they’re doing me a favor by cancelling. This works great to distract children, too, which is probably why it works so well for my baby-stepping self!
Look, I know the world is filled with frustrating people. I’m one of them who probably cut you off in traffic. (I really didn’t see you!) The negativity isn’t likely to just go away overnight. But imagine what it might be like if we could at least stop creating more of it. What if we all decided to be nice humans? Would it overpower the river of slime? What if we tapped into humility? Can we practice? Please?
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. ~ John 13:34-35 ESV
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. ~ Ephesians 4:32 ESV
Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. ~1 Peter 4:9 ESV
Related Post: The Golden Rule