“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said,
people will forget what you did,
but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
– Maya Angelou
This quote is one that’s been with me for a long time, since high school. It always resonantes. I find again and again in friendship (and with my feeble memory) that I forget words and details, but I always remember warmth, openness, and a welcoming smile.
Receiving and giving kindness is one of the reasons why I love hosting people – and why I want to constantly cultivate hospitality. But you know what I’ve been learning is hard? It is a struggle to remember to cultivate that simple – that oh so simple! – courtesy with my husband.
Some of our good friends (Jake and Joanna – !) wrote in our wedding card that the secret to their happy marriage so far has been one simple truism: BE KIND. Such truth, such difficulty! It’s one thing to treat a friend with respect during an argument, it’s something wholly different to treat a spouse – someone you know almost everything about, someone who is a part of who you are, someone whose goals and life reflect on you and reflect your relationship – with kindness in an argument. Especially when that “heated discussion” happens in the private confines of a bedroom, a car, a date night (as almost all do) .
Don’t ask me why it’s easier to treat the person whom I love most – more than all my friends, mind you! – with an inconsiderate rudeness I would deem inconceivable if directed at anyone else. My theory is that it’s because I know he’ll always love me back.
Ahem. I know. When should that ever be justification?
I’ve been thinking about how underrated kindness is in strengthening a relationship. Oh, the sweet, simple joy of hearing “You look beautiful!” or “Thanks for putting the dishes away,” or “How can I help/serve you?” (Bryan does this a lot).
Before I get too far, let me digress to be clear on one point: there is a difference between being kind and being a doormat without an opinion. What I’m talking of here is not burying your opinions in order to preserve peace. I’m talking about treating someone with decency; not hanging up on someone over the phone, not rolling your eyes at someone. It’s having RESPECT.
Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, whoever you’re with – kindness isn’t something we should lavish on individuals we desperately want to accept and like us back. It should be the affirmation of an established friendship.
I’m still working on this area. I write this as an exercise in reminding myself.
These next few weeks will be filled with stress and timetables for us as we move (Chapel Hill and DC), travel for two vacations, and celebrate two weddings. Bryan and I will need kindness.