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The Tao of Kindness

Caterpillar aa posted Feb 17, 14


Over the past several days, I've been presented with a number of life lessons that I've not wanted to learn. I've fought these lessons bitterly, finding myself much more at home wallowing in feelings of self-pity, anger, and wounded indignation. Those are familiar friends, an emotional bed of nails that seems, somehow, to fit my inner contours perfectly.

As I reflect on my unhappiness, I find myself imagining an alternate timeline: one in which, at every twist and turn, the involved parties had simply given one another the benefit of the doubt. It's a much happier story, with better outcomes for everyone involved.

It's not coincidence, I am certain, that many of these lessons have come through the experience of leading our guild. We play an online game wherein we often come to know one another in part, over time. From our limited observations of one another in a limited set of circumstances, we try to know and understand one another. Using the (very!) few pieces we are given, we rough out the edges of very complex puzzles. We then fill in the blanks as well as we can from what we've observed: if we're building out the sky, or the water, we guess that some more blue or gray pieces might fit. In time, we feel that we have a reasonably complete picture, and that picture shapes our interaction with those people in-game.

What we sometimes fail to recognize is that there is a real person, and often real suffering, behind each avatar. We don't know, for instance, that one of us is struggling with cancer. Another has just lost a partner of 8 years. Some of us have lost our jobs, or are living a half-life, crushed in a press of worry over employment and finances. Some may be struggling with the never-ending stress of parenting, fearful about the future, and living with constant guilt that our time spent in this game comes at a cost to our children and spouses that can never be repaid. Some may live daily in a cocoon of paralyzing shyness, and may find that their only opportunity for meaningful interaction lies here, within our guild. Mental illness. Infidelity and divorce. Health issues. 

When a guildmate overreacts to a situation, or behaves in way that is inconsistent with the extrapolated picture we hold of that person, we wonder: what's *his* problem? Or: why is she overreacting to something so trivial? Or even: I don't appreciate being spoken to like this!

How much happier could we be - how much more harmonious as a guild - if we were to approach every situation by extending the benefit of the doubt, and working backward from there? This, instead of reacting to every word, action and reaction as a personal injury, inflicted on us by uncaring guildmates?

What if we were to assume, in every instance, that we're dealing with good, kind human beings, whose behavior may be out of character due to factors unrelated to the game? Maybe that player is pressuring us to join his group because he'd really like to hang out with us, and is maybe even feeling lonely. Maybe that player doesn't want to join our group because she has to pick up her daughter in a half-hour and knows that she'll be miserable, watching the clock the whole time? Maybe that other player snapped at me because he had a terrible day at work and ran over a squirrel on the way home and his wife is mad because he's sitting down to play WoW again.

Maybe they were trying to help. Maybe he is fearful. Maybe she is having trouble expressing herself clearly. Maybe they are hung over. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe.

The lesson that I'm struggling to learn this week is one that I've been struggling to learn for years. Since I began attempting to climb this particular rung of my life ladder, I've noticed that I'm in good company, struggling alongside many others who could also be a lot happier, if they could simply wrap their fingers around the rung and pull themselves up.

You cannot control what others do or say, but you *can* control how you respond to it.

Be kind. Give others the benefit of the doubt. Always.

Odds are, they are suffering, too.

-Cat


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Hey Neri! Nice to see you still kicking around. :)
Hello, lovelies! Just thought I'd drop in and say hello, and yes I am still alive! :p I just took a bit of a WoW break is all
BRB, that link made me hungry.
No Casa and I for the next few Stone Drake runs as she is over on your side of the world and I am busy with work. Sorry, team!
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