One of my worst nightmares, especially as a minister, is that someone might have cause to give up hope because of something I say or do.
In reality, it happens to all of us. We do and say things, especially at times to those who are closest to us, that can wreak destructive consequences.
None of us really knows how close people are to giving up hope. As they say, it’s often the straw that breaks the camel’s back. It might be something we think is small that we say or do that can end up being the thing that takes another person to the end of their tether—or simply contributes to the burden they’re quietly carrying.
We know this in ourselves, through those things that were said and done to us, where we for a moment gave up hope or became so disenchanted as to go the wrong way. And sometimes people didn’t even realize their negative impact or worse they didn’t care.
There are so many opportunities in life to set records straight in terms of loving others, to right wronged relationships, to do kindness and, to act mercifully. Think of the power given to us when we act in good faith to do a kindness that isn’t expected or required.
Try a little kindness and see what it does within. It is such a force for good that it does something within us that can only be described as a spiritual gift.
Anger and disdain and contempt for others, on the other hand, hardens our heart, because it comes from a hardened heart. Judgmental attitudes and punishing behaviors don’t come from a calm, serene core—it comes from a place within that is deeply insecure.
When it comes to others, we have so little control over what they might do, especially as it pertains to actions that emanate from their mental health.
If we’re in conflict with someone, estranged for any reason, holding out on them as to exclude them or do anything that hurts them, we ought to bear a burden, not to be part of the reason they go a wrong way.
Despair doesn’t just take us to the obvious worst outcome, but it includes a thousand other actions that affect not only the person in question but others that love and care for them too.
Kindness is such an easy thing to do, but at times it’s the hardest thing to do because it means we must overcome our pride, to be humble of heart, to give the other person what we might strongly feel they don’t even deserve. This we call grace.
When we are in situations of conflict, or we might feel frustrated within, it might feel impossible to overcome the anger you might feel justified in feeling, but if that anger is going to hurt people, think of the consequences.
Listen to the still, small voice within you saying, “Stop this now… don’t push them into a corner… be kind… discharge peace.”
We may not want to admit this, but we do have an impact on other people’s mental health, just as other people can have an impact on our mental health.
This I find is the goal of life: we owe a duty of care to others and to ourselves.
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on Tribework