Where have all the kind people gone? Print
Youth Column
Written by Karen Osborne, Catholic News Service   
Thursday, May. 01, 2014 -- 12:00 AM

I don't know what's going on -- maybe it's the long, lingering winter or the rising gas prices -- but everyone seems testy and rude, visiting nastiness and annoyance on their fellow human beings: The guy in line yesterday at the sandwich place who called the new kid behind the counter an "idiot" or the woman who growled "get a job" to the homeless person panhandling on the corner this morning.

Sure, when you're annoyed, frustrated, or angry, it's hard to be nice. It's easier to listen to the fight-or-flight response that calls us to bite and scratch. But we don't live in the annals of prehistory: This is 2014, and we should have learned by now that being kind is the way to go in life.

For many people, frustration causes a lot of nastiness -- I know that being frustrated really ticks me off! However, lacking control of your frustration level can really mess up your life.

Ever hear of road rage? That's what happens when drivers can't control their frustration level and let it boil over like an unwatched teapot.

The same thing happens to all of us in smaller ways. When I get frustrated, I am a lot more likely to snap at my friends and family -- most of whom aren't even involved in the situation that's making me feel like a shaken-up soda bottle.

It's also hard to be nice when you're annoyed or angry with someone -- maybe a person in your English group project who isn't turning in work fast enough, or a bully making fun of your clothes.

In this situation, being kind is more than the right thing to do -- it may help you kick the bully problem. Usually, what bullies really want is to get a rise out of their victims, to see them upset or see them cry. When their victims are calm, cool, collected, complimenting them on their sweaters, they often have no idea what to do. Easy, nonviolent and sometimes very funny!

So, when you're feeling particularly nasty, take a deep breath, smile, and ask yourself these three questions:

1. "Is this situation going to get better if I'm mean to someone else?" The answer is usually no. Like the old saying goes: "You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar." You'll make more friends and fewer enemies by being nice, and it often repays you in kind. Imagine what a better experience the guy in the sandwich shop could have had if he'd been nice to the clerk (extra cheese, anyone?)

2. "What's really going on here?" Maybe the person you're frustrated with is feeling down or dejected about their work or their day, and all they would need is a few kind and encouraging words from you to help them along -- and, in turn, make your day better, too!

3. "Am I taking my frustration out on someone who doesn't deserve it?" I have a nasty habit of being short and testy with my husband when we're out in the dreary, terrible Orlando, Fla., traffic, which frustrates me to no end. But he didn't create the traffic -- so instead, I try to say something kind instead. The result? The traffic isn't so frustrating anymore.

If the world were a water park, it wouldn't be like a lazy river -- it's a water slide with stressful turns, twists, dark tunnels, breathless moments, and crazy, frustrating drops where you're absolutely certain you're going to freak out. Being kind to others on the same crazy journey makes everything a little less frightening -- and a lot more fun!

Karen Dietlein Osborne contributes to “Coming of Age,” a CNS column series for and about youth. She is a staff writer for the Evangelist, newspaper of the Diocese of Albany, N.Y..


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