One of my resolutions is to be a nicer person. Kind of vague, I know. I had an idea in my head when I first wrote that on my resolution list, which basically involved reverting back to an innocent, non-cynical, pre-ruined by the facts of life version of myself. Somehow, I don’t think I’m capable of pulling that off.
I still want it, though. I spent some time in February really trying to figure out where I want to be and how to get there, and I’ve come to a few conclusions. I know that I want to go out of my way to be more helpful to people, even if it makes me feel uncomfortable, even though it might be hard work, even though I’d rather be at home. But exerting effort, venturing out of my comfort zone, giving up some of my precious personal time – that’s really the easy part. There are two things that will be harder to change: my thought life and allowing my emotions to control how I treat people.
That feels quite daunting; attempting to change the moment to moment thoughts, feelings and reactions I have to the people and events that make up my life. How does one do that? Where to start?
I used to be a nicer person. Not that I’ve turned into a mean girl; I’m not purposefully hateful, rude or disrespectful. I don’t do whatever it takes to ensure my own comfort, safety, happiness or success at the expense of other people. I don’t generally think I am better than, more important, smarter, or more capable than the people around me.
But my thought life is not all that I wish it to be.
Certainly I have a normal human level of selfishness and self-centeredness. But beyond that, I am often irritable, impatient and judgmental, feelings that spill over from my thoughts and into my interactions with others. And though it pains me to say, I am sometimes condescending in my thoughts toward other people. These are things that I learned to be over time, and I can clearly remember when I did not think and feel that way. (That is a whole topic for another post.)
If I can learn to be that way, can’t I learn to not be that way?
For now, I’m working on the task of being nice. Going out of my way to help, offering help before someone has to ask me, donating my time and energy willingly. It feels wrong to say that I have to “practice” being nice, but I think it’s pretty normal if you’re not looking forward to helping someone wash their car or alphabetize their movie collection.
What I am practicing is the willingness in my heart, which has really been an extension of Practicing Thankful. I am focusing not on the hard work or lost personal time, or whatever it is that feels negative about the task at hand. Instead, I am reminding myself that I get to spend time with someone I care about. I get to be helpful. I get to ease their burden.
So many rewards for being nice.