I often speak about the approach of Leading with Love and Kindness within the contexts of being the President of a non-profit and as a teacher. I know that it can sound a little much. People may ask, is this guy in some weird cult? So, I want to explain what I mean. Let’s start with explaining that this phrase is my goal and aspiration that I am trying to practice and get better at every day. It is a difficult practice to develop and over time the difficulty level ebbs and flows.
The word love is a loaded word. Upper case LOVE is how I feel about my wife, son, family, and closest friends. They have my heart and my deepest trust. But, lower case love is different to me, it refers to my view of the world. This type of love refers to my desire to see each person’s humanity first. Some may choose to use a different word than humanity which is more spiritual, but for me, it is seeing another as a beautiful child who brings with themselves their biological, cultural, and social experiences from birth to now. I don’t know where others have come from, their experiences, their traumas and joys. I try my best not to assign value to others, but to work with their behaviors. I choose to assume that others are doing the best they can with the tools they have in how they interact with the world.
Being an activist and professional in the Gifted Community, I have learned to adjust for Giftedness. I continuously update my understanding of how the effects of giftedness impact the community at large and our interactions with each other and ourselves. In short, I generally expect from others in the community the traits of intelligence, introversion, intensity, and over-excitability. Applying my world view of love is both invaluable and challenging at times working in our community. We drill down for deep dives, we feel strongly, we know surely, we expect more, we get angry, we get self-righteous, we get defensive, we lash out, we have existential doubt, we get hurt, we withdraw. Yes, Mr. Marley, we can experience that all in one night.
Here is where the kindness comes in for me. By using this worldview, I try to interact with others and myself with as much patience as possible, tempering my expectations, frustrations, and defensiveness. I try not to undercut my feelings, but try to move to a constructive place where I depersonalize my experiences as quickly as I can – sometimes that’s moments, weeks, or years. By depersonalizing, it allows me to open my ears and myself to try to have a balanced, non-defensive view of an experience. It is okay to be both “right” and “wrong” in a situation. This is hard, so instead, I try to be proud that I am working through a process as best as possible. I try to allow myself and the other person to save face.
I found an important skill and it may sound odd. Treat each day as if it is Groundhogs day. I get this expression from the Bill Murray movie, where he has to relive the same day over again until he gets it right. No matter what, he wakes up in the same bed, at the same time, with Sonny and Cher singing, I’ve got you, babe. In this movie, Bill Murray is the only one aware that he is reliving this day, starting fresh with everyone else. At first, he uses it to get out all of the things that he shouldn’t do, but in time he comes around to using his time to accomplish positive things, care for others, and enjoy his hobbies.
The use of Groundhogs day allows me to start fresh each day, forgive myself for all those things I would painfully regret tomorrow, and start over. I get to try to do today a little bit better than I did yesterday. I also learn to allow others to do things a little bit better. In essence, I learn to forgive myself and others so that I can move on and live life more joyfully.
Part of Leading with Love and Kindness is to live as an example of it. I work to adjust myself, reset my expectations, which changes my interactions with others. I share my philosophy with others. I want them to understand my actions and sentiment. Sometimes my actions can be misconstrued. My hope is that others learn to treat themselves in a kinder way. In time, people pass it on. It is sincere and contagious.
I don’t consider myself love and kindness woke. Having the aspiration doesn’t make me perfect. I allow myself to keep working towards that goal. Please share with me how you aspire to do the same or similar things. What are your experiences? What are your challenges?
I know that in the end, I will be good at Leading with Love and Kindness.
Fortunately, it is not the end yet.