Where There is Hatred, Let Me Sow Love

Early one morning, I came across an internet troll. He was picking apart a review I wrote about a book I found to be nostalgic. “There’s nothing nostalgic about this book,” he began while continuing to list out his reasons. He sounded so grumpy and ill-tempered. “Who is this person?” I asked myself, half awake. Upon looking at his page, I saw that his comment feed was littered with angry messages from other users. The energy was just awful.

It was really early when I came upon this situation, and honestly, the morning is not when I’m naturally inspired to be my best. I was a bit grumpy myself and was aggravated by this person who seemed to enjoy bothering people for no reason. But after about ten minutes, and after my morning grogginess began wearing off, I started to really think about this whole scenario. Here was a man who was spewing hate everywhere. From the looks of it, he spent his leisurely time provoking others and trying to get a reaction out of them. This is not the behavior of a healthy, happy, and whole person. It was clear that a part of him was miserable and despairing. I found his behavior to be an indirect cry for help. More than the normal person, this man needed more warmth, love and cheer in his life. He needed it desperately because he seemed so deeply planted in darkness.

Therefore, with my heart softened and clarified, I set about responding to his message in a better way. To the hateful, long paragraph he submitted to me, I responded with four different, distinct lines of praise, all complimenting his observations and even ending with, “You’re wonderful.” For good measure, I added a smiley face. I figured he really needed that smiley face.

After my response was submitted, I felt really good about what I had done. Instead of contributing to more hate, which is oh so easy to do, I wanted to try an experiment and respond with utter kindness. How would he react then? I imagine he would be completely baffled by my message and not know how to respond (he hasn’t). But hopefully, it would give him pause for just a moment and lift some of his heavy burdens of life. I enjoy giving people the element of surprise. I enjoy acting out of the ordinary. I enjoy doing the thing that is harder– and mostly, I enjoy knowing I’ve contributed to love instead of hate.

Deep down, and behind his actions, I know that there is an ailing being in there. When I contemplate his unhappiness, I find that his predicament is worthy of my compassion. I’m glad that I was taught not to be fooled by superficial behavior, but to look deeper. Much deeper. As I’ve quoted before, and will probably come to quote forever, “People need love the most when they deserve it the least.” -Unknown


Dirty Socks

I once heard a true story about a woman who would always nag at her husband to un-bunch his dirty socks before throwing them into the laundry basket. For years, she nagged at him about this and for years, he kept to his same old habits. Although it was just a small thing, it annoyed her to no end because he simply ignored her requests. One day however, the woman found her husband’s socks neatly un-bunched in the laundry basket. She could scarcely believe her eyes. He had listened for once! She hurriedly rushed to her husband and showered him with praise.

“You helped me out this time and did what I asked! It makes my life so much easier,” she gushed. She made sure to really lather on the praise and he beamed like a little child, holding a lollipop. From that time on, he made it a point to un-bunch his socks every time.

It’s amazing what a little praise can do. It is such a powerful motivator. The nuns understand this and often use praise to guide people along the righteous path in an encouraging way. Most people use praise to uplift little children and innocent pets who are learning their way through the early stages of life. But how quickly this method is abandoned once adults are in the picture or when two married people are concerned. Nagging often takes the place of praise and negative sentiments quickly fill the home while two vastly different people with vastly different habits must learn to coexist. This is very sad because praise on the other hand, can be so effective and inspiring. It can bring out the shiniest parts of someone and fill the home with positivity.

I remember experiencing the effects of praise myself one time. I had just gotten married and felt a bit overwhelmed with how neat and clean my new house was expected to be. I grew up in a family of “free spirits” who didn’t mind a little dust or clutter here and there. But now, in this new setting, I was expected to maintain the upkeep of the spotless place. With two stories of hardwood floors and four bedrooms, I felt overwhelmed with the household chores. It seemed like I could never get the place clean enough for some people’s standards.

Then one day, my husband’s aunt came to visit from Taiwan. When she walked in, she looked around with delighted eyes and said, “Wow Shani, you’ve made this place so clean! You’re so good at making things neat.” As she spoke, I felt my face blooming like a flower in the warm sun. I was completely elated. I felt like I could clean the house endlessly for her just to please her further.

From that instance, I understood firsthand the power of praise and why the nuns actively utilize this method. I felt how strongly I wanted to change for my husband’s aunt simply because she had recognized my efforts and had given me encouragement for the journey. If you want someone to change or to do a certain thing, praise them. Praise them often and sincerely and watch them transform before your very eyes.

Seeing Beyond Our Own Pain

In the midst of conflict, it’s often hard to see beyond our own pain. When we’re hurting, the emotions we feel are so glaringly close that is seems to block out all other things. We think our pain makes us special, it’s what we can relate to the most. But if we take a moment to listen and to understand others, we’ll see that they’re also struggling. They also have their own issues that they need to deal with. They may not be adept in expressing themselves, but it doesn’t mean the pain isn’t there.

For example, one time I got really upset at my husband because he was acting cranky about a party we were going to. He had agreed to go with me six months before but was now dragging his feet to go. Even when we arrived, he was tense and unable to enjoy anything. I didn’t appreciate the fact that he was ruining the whole experience for me. All my anticipation from the last half year was wasted in complete disappointment. We left shortly after and I was so angry at him. We started arguing with each exchange getting louder and louder.

But all of a sudden, what happened next shocked me. Tears started streaming down my husband’s face one by one. He couldn’t contain his emotions anymore. I had rarely ever seen him cry. He had always made himself look so tough, but there he was unraveling before me. It was then that I fell silent. He told me that he has no time to do anything for himself. He’s so stressed out and busy on the weekdays that our little bit of free time together on the weekends is so precious to him. He just wants to relax with his family at home. He explained that he hates parties and they make him feel anxious. Couldn’t I be happy that he went with me already?

For the first time, I realized that he was also in pain. I was not the only one who was experiencing frustration. He was going through so much but all I could see was my own hurt. All I could relate to was myself. I didn’t know anything about his circumstance. Seeing him break down broke my heart. It finally allowed me to open my eyes and to see a wounded person in front of me. All that time, I had wanted him to take away my hurt and to make me feel better. But what had I done for him? Nothing. I had not even tried to understand him. He taught me a very valuable lesson that day. I am not always the victim. Other people have feelings too and are dealing with their own struggles. I need to look beyond my own pain sometimes and realize that there may be more to the situation than what I see.