The summer that I turned 18 some friends and I hopped on a Greyhound bus and headed to the Ottawa area for a weekend of whitewater rafting. It was our attempt at doing something fun and exciting before we graduated from high school and we ended up having a blast. We had no idea what we were doing; none of us had ever been before and we weren’t sure what to expect. But we made friends with our team of rafters, followed the guide’s instructions, and managed to get down the river without any major difficulties.
One of the best tips that our guide gave us right before we set out was that when we hit the rapids we would need to “meet force with force.” This was no time to be timid. If you wimp out in the toughest rapids you won’t make it through. We responded to his words by giving it our all and were rewarded with an amazing adventure.
The advice given to us by our guide that day is wisdom I have tried to carry with me throughout my life. There are times when it just won’t do to back down, no matter how intimidated or overwhelmed you might feel.
I am not talking about fighting your way through something with no plan or rhyme or reason. What I am talking about is finding your place of strength and preparing yourself for what lies ahead and meeting it head on. Not in cowardice or shame but in awareness that you are going to be challenged and with the knowledge that you are ready for it.
Most recently I have made the decision to “meet force with force” in one specific area; kindness. It might seem counter-intuitive to speak of using force and kindness together but, in fact, they can (and should) go hand in hand. Kindness can be perceived as a weakness much of the time, but if you’ve ever bitten your tongue when you really wanted to say something mean, then you know the tremendous strength it can take to choose kindness.
When I was younger, kindness did not come naturally to me. Anger, resentment, and selfishness did, though. It has taken me many years to train myself to react to other people’s words and actions in a kind way rather than a self-righteous or rude way. I still sometimes find it difficult to withhold judgement or even to suppress an eye roll at the opinions of someone else, especially if I’m feeling overly tired or irritable. And it’s true that there are times when I don’t even try that hard at all.
We all have our battles.
But I am old enough and have seen enough in my life to know that I would rather choose to be a kind person than an unkind one. I have seen and been subjected to the repercussions of the unkind words or deeds of other people many times. Enough that at some point I decided I didn’t want to be one of those people. I don’t want to offend other people or hurt them unnecessarily. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, right?
This has meant, in many cases, apologizing for my words or actions as well as holding a lot of regrets of times when I was instinctively unkind. Being kind is a choice that I have to make over and over again. It is the force I am using to combat the unkind words or actions of other people both in real life and online, where I feel that there is lack of and desperate need for more kindness.
So when someone comes against me in a force of anger or disrespect or condescension or any other negative force I may be startled momentarily, but I have a plan of action. I have a chosen force that I will make a conscious decision to employ in order to meet the force that is threatening me. I can’t always manage a positive outcome and I can’t anticipate whether my “opponent” will respond to the force I am using. I can’t expect that the other person will even care that I have chosen to be kind.
But the point is that the older I get the more I realize that I don’t want to go through my days drifting wherever the river takes me. Unprepared and out of control. I want to live with purpose and intention and that means being ready to “meet force with force” wherever and whenever I feel it’s necessary.
Decide where you want to go, what kind of person you want to be, and then find your strength and push forward.
Today I’m choosing the force of kindness.
What force are you choosing today?