With your significant other, with others, with yourself. Be gentle.
With Valentine’s Day approaching, it’s a perfect time to talk abut love. Last Friday I talked about the word “love”. Today I’m talking about what it means to love someone and how we can cultivate more love in our lives.
First things first, be gentle. We’re too mean, too aggressive, too cold, too…everything. But we aren’t gentle enough. We aren’t kind.
Why aren’t we kind or gentle?
Well, the easy answer is that life isn’t easy and this means it isn’t easy to be nice. That’s the short answer at least.
The longer answer is that life is hard.
Life is hard. Bad things happen. Stressful things happen. Trauma comes up. We sleep poorly. And the easy way to deal with this is to be mean. To snap at our loved ones. To lash out at the people closest to us. To lash out at ourselves.
It’s hard to pause. It’s even harder to measure your reactions and try to be gentle to someone else. It’s almost impossible now, to be gentle with someone who is snippy when you’re in a snippy mood too.
It’s honestly way too easy to be mean when we’re in a bad mood. But when we are in that mood, we aren’t thinking about the other person at all. In fact, I’d like to say that generally, we don’t think about other people at all. We aren’t thinking about how stressed someone is. Or how what we are doing is impacting them. Or how straining other areas of their life might be.
And if we aren’t thinking about the other person, we aren’t realizing that how we are acting is detrimental. Again, it’s easy to continue you on with the bad mood and lash out.
But we need to be gentle with each other. We need to extend that form of love to one another.
Because life is hard, we get stressed and we become cold, unsympathetic to those around us (and to ourselves). How do we change this? And why should we go through the effort?
Let’s get into it.
Be kind to a spouse/significant other.
All right, it’s not easy to be nice to your significant other. Well, not all the times at least. Aside from “it’s the right thing to do”, we need to be gentle to our spouses because they are the people we often love most. We have chosen them. We want them in our lives forever. If we aren’t gentle, it won’t last. And we aren’t loving them fully.
Extending this form of love is an important part of a healthy relationship.
When working on this, begin in the head. Start paying more attention to how you interact with your S.O on good days, bad days, and normal days. Once you have a grasp of your habits and behaviors, start moving your thoughts from “what am I doing” to “what could be going on with them”.
This shift is really important. It starts opening our minds up. We should know a fair amount about our other half and as humans we are naturally sympathetic. All that to say, we should be able to predict how they’re feeling, what could have upset them in the day, what could have made them happy, etc.
It’s practically the same as buying a gift.
Except, you’re giving them kindness.
Once you understand how to read them better, you can start the real changes. The physical ones. Most of these aren’t verbal. This is also how you show your love.
Say you’re in a bad mood and you see that your S.O is also really upset or you think that something during their day will have upset them. Small gesture. A sticky note saying you love them. Organizing their desk. Writing “I love you” in the snow, taking a picture, and sending it to them. Smile. Put on a song the two of you like. Hug. Give them a little kiss. Hold their hand.
Make an effort.
That’s what it gets down to. The way I approach this is with this phrase:
I might be in a bad mood. But I love you and I see that you’re struggling (I see you might be stressed). So I’m going to show you how much I love you. Making you smile will make me smile.
There are so many tiny small things you can do. By doing them, whether or not the other person is stressed, you will feel better. You will be shifting a negative attitude and snippy behavior towards a positive, loving behavior, that will grow the relationship.
Be gentle with others.
Obviously you can’t run around hugging other people or massaging their shoulders. And even if you could, you probably shouldn’t. But there are ways you can be gentle to family, friends, and strangers.
Offer a smile. Say hello. Give them the benefit of the doubt.
Sometimes people are in a terrible mood and don’t know how to be kind. But you do. Or at least, now you do. It’s not that you aren’t in a bad mood, it’s that you know being mean isn’t going to put anything positive into the world and it won’t make you feel better so you might as well be nice.
Being nice like this does cheer people up. You can help them by just being gentle.
Be gentle with yourself.
This is extremely important: you must be gentle with yourself.
I think this is the one we have the hardest time executing. Before we turn on others, even if we don’t realize it, we are turning on ourselves. We’re letting ourselves become angry, volatile, and we are probably not managing stress, cultivating something bad (like bad body image, negative thoughts, etc), and worsening a bad mood.
To begin with, when we are in a bad mood or whatever, it’s important to recognize two things: this doesn’t last forever and it’s okay to be upset.
They seem like they contradict each other but the point is to realize that it’s just a moment or day, we’re allowed to feel what we feel, but we don’t want to actively stay there in a bad place.
Some physical ways to be gentle is to make an effort and workout, eat right, and practice self care. Sometimes that means don’t workout. Have a cookie or two. Get to bed earlier. Take a bath. Listen to some music. Take a mental health day.
At the end of the day, what it means to be gentle with others, yourself, and your spouse or significant other is to just be nice. It’s not always easy but it is almost always worth it.
Take a breath, explain your emotions and communicate, and just be nice.