When my children were young, I often found myself rushing. This particular time, I was in a big hurry to get to an appointment, yet my son was ravenous after football practice. We swung into Taco Bell to order him a quick snack. There were several cars in front of us, so we waited. And we waited some more. Finally, we placed our order. The order taker asked me several times to repeat my order, each time speaking louder with a little more frustration in my voice. I tried to be patient but anxiously watched the time getting later.
At last, he asked me to pull forward to the window to pay. I handed over the money, but my change came back incorrectly. It was the wrong order! We waited again while he placed the correct order. (My son was not a fan of fish sandwiches.) My patience waned, and my angst rose. This stop was supposed to be quick—not! He finally handed me the right order with the right change and my response was less than kind.
As we pulled away, I'll never forget what my son said to me.
“Mom, did you feel you had the right to be unkind because he screwed up?” I was so busted! Yup, that’s exactly how I felt. Out the window went my parenting model. Hmm. Plus, I had just massacred one of my personal values—kindness—because someone made a mistake and didn’t go fast enough according to my schedule. I had made my busy schedule more important than treating a person with kindness. Ouch!
“What a hypocrite!” I said to myself. Oops, the same unkindness had just turned inward. Now I was judging myself. Hmm. Wow, so quickly I had sliced and diced my value.
Values Guide Our Lives
Will I ever be unkind again? Most likely, yes. I guess that makes me human. I’m okay with that. What stood out for me was my awareness glaring back at me. It was burning into my soul the motivation to make my values alive and to live through them. It's a work in progress.
Now that I acknowledged my mistake and renewed a commitment to myself, I had to resolve the negative mind chatter. Turning inward with kindness, I asked, "How can I be kind to myself even when I feel that I betrayed a core value I hold dear?
Answer: "Accept my imperfections with compassion."
Next question: "How can I learn to live kindness more fully, more consistently?"
Answer: "Make a conscious effort to observe myself and notice when I'm not kind. Then choose a more loving thought and action."
Kindness Rediscovered at Taco Bell
What I've learned in my practice with kindness and through talking with scores of clients about values is that our behavior, no matter how inappropriate, is often justified by how others treat us. However, values are unchanging. Our practice is trying to live them better each day.
The challenge is practicing kindness (or honesty or calmness or courage) even when we don't feel like it and when our value gets tested as mine did at Taco Bell years ago.
And that is a lifetime practice. Whatever happens, use each experience to live your values more fully. Getting physically stronger requires exercise. Emotional intelligence and character building require training, too. Flex those muscles daily!
Just maybe, at the end of our life, we'll be a far better person!
Related reading: "Values and Work-Life Balance: What Is Most Important?"
And if you'd like support and personalized tools to live your values more fully, reach out and contact us at Heartmanity!