It’s been over a year since my last blog post, “9 Practices of Happy People.” The last couple of years have been crazy. There’s been a lot of decisions to make and a lot of heartache in the process. We all have choices to make regularly. With each of these, we must take the time to question our motives. Sometimes the decision is a big one, like getting married. Other times, it feels small. While what you have for lunch may not be crucial in the long run, it’s good practice to consider what you do before you do it. Here are a few questions to ask yourself.
What Emotion Are You Feeling?
This one can be hard. Most of us want to think that fleeting feelings do not lead us. Being practical is the way to go, right? But that way of thinking will get you nowhere. We are human beings, not robots. While we shouldn’t make decisions in anger, we should also be aware of what we are feeling. A lot of people try to deny their anger, which only helps it to grow into resentment. Acknowledging your anger may feel like giving in to it, but openly accepting what you think and why you feel it is the first step to overcoming it.
Don’t be fooled by those urging you to let go of what makes you human. Don’t suppress your emotions. Each one of them is there for a reason. Ignoring them doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Even if that emotion is expressed illy every once in a while, it’s okay. It happens to everyone who has good emotional health. What matters more than your expression is how you come back from it. If someone else was affected, apologize, and do better. It’s that simple.
If you think about the religious figures you worship or idols you have, whether it be Jesus Christ, Buddha, or Shiva, you’ll notice they have one thing in common. They are not “practical” people. These deities are led by their convictions, morality, and compassion for others. Every decision they made was to better the lives of others, not just themselves. They felt every emotion and recognized them for what they were. Nearly every religion is based on love, but even most Atheists agree that it should remain a priority, which brings us to our next point.
Side Point: If someone else is asking you to give up everyone or everything else in your life for them, it is toxic. It is not a chance for you to do something for this person and show your selflessness. When you are urged to be more compassionate and selfless, it shouldn’t be devoted to one person, especially if that person is asking you to give up relationships and compassion for others. See “Are You A Narcissist?” for a checklist on narcissism.
Is Anyone Else Involved?
If you’re not considering others in your decisions, then you need to rethink them. We’re told time and time again that we should make decisions for ourselves and only ourselves. But honestly, that’s not right. If your decision is affecting someone else, then they should be involved in the decision-making. They may not need to give their opinion, but if they don’t, you should at least consider their feelings. Believe it or not, not everyone is capable of putting themselves in someone else’s shoes—those who can should do it regularly.
All that matters in this life is people. Animals are magnificent and should be treated kindly. Material things are fun but mean nothing. Jobs come and go. All that matters is the people we have in our lives. Our relationships should have priority. But even before anything else after our own personal relationships, other people (strangers even) should take precedence. Your decisions should be based on people. That doesn’t mean you should be a martyr, it means that you really should want to see the people in your life happy. You should take other people’s feelings into consideration, and not cast them aside without a care.
Are You Underhanded, Conniving, Or Secretive?
I’m sorry to tell you that the whole, “I’ll show them,” and, “how dare they?” mindset is a little outdated. Meaning, it’s juvenile. No one likes to think of themselves as manipulative or mean. But if we’re doing something that we’re ashamed of or if we feel that we have had injustices done towards us, sometimes it’s hard not to. Does that make it right? Of course not. We should strive to be honest, empathetic, and understanding. This empathy should have no bias. You shouldn’t want to see someone in pain, you shouldn’t want to be the person to say, “it serves them right.” We want people who harm others locked up. But that’s to lessen pain, not inflict more.
Being honest and empathetic doesn’t mean we should live without filters completely. If you have a rude thought cross your mind, that doesn’t mean you should say it. Not doing so is being kind and respectful, which is the entire point. We should do what we do to be kind, loving, generous, and honest. Just because you use the façade of fruit to disguise your work of the flesh, doesn’t mean it’s a fruit. Your inner thoughts, motives, and fruits are what matters. Those closest to you will be the ones who can see those.
Side Point 2: We should never do what “kind” things we do for praise. Never mentioning it shows signs of maturity, true kindness, and sincerity. Someone who talks about themself and their accomplishments all the time isn’t very secure in who they are or in their morality. It’s a sign that the person is trying to convince others of their stoicism or altruism instead of just living it out genuinely. Everyone wants praise of some sort as a form of validity, but there comes to a point where you just want to do right because it’s what’s right.
Do You Have Multiple Reliable Sources?
Being left alone with your own thoughts is never a good thing in the long run. It’s essential to have more than one person to talk to that will tell you the truth, no matter what. There’s nothing wrong with having someone to help you feel better, but not at the expense of the truth. And never just to make someone else feel bad. If the person you are talking to is primarily talking bad about others, then they’re probably not someone you want to have in your immediate life. Try saying something they don’t want to hear and see where it gets you. You’ll be on the other end of it soon enough.
You want people to question you, as you question them. You want someone who does it out of love and kindness. If you don’t have anyone in your life helping you question your motives, then find someone who will. Accountability is important. It’s okay for someone to tell you you’re wrong. Especially when they have your best interest at heart, these people know the real you, and they should use that knowledge to help you become better, happier, and more understanding. Listen to these people. Really listen.
You can research all you want to, but anyone can find what they want on the internet. Just ignore everything you don’t like until you find someone saying what you want them to say. That’s why we need real relationships.
Just Do The Right Thing!
Most of us are just trying to do what we believe is right. This is the bottom line. Judging others based on their actions and yourself based on your proposed motives is wrong. Instead of looking at someone else’s action, look at why they are doing it. Maybe someone is marching because they believe that’s what is right. Perhaps someone else is staying indoors because they believe that’s what is right. Kneeling, standing, protesting, whatever they may be doing. We should try to see their hearts before their actions. Not everyone is doing what they are doing for the reason you would be doing what they are doing. Trying to change someone’s point of view with anger or by pushing your own views will never work.
If you really care about others, about the current state of the world, then you’ll try to understand them before deciding that they are malicious. Most people aren’t trying to help others become better when they make comments, but rather validate their own perspective. Maybe it’s time we actually try with an open mind. Most people aren’t doing what they do for an evil reason. They are either selfish or they genuinely think it’s the right thing to do. There’s nothing wrong with a healthy, clean debate. Maybe we should try discussing things instead of starting it off with an argument.
But before you do, try finding out if you’re just trying to do the right thing. It’s not that hard. It’s essential to try to become better and learn more, but trying isn’t hard. You can feel it if you’ll pay attention. You know the difference between right and wrong, even without a book to tell you. Some things are in-between, up for discussion, or even decided by the “correct” side of the argument. But when it comes to your own decisions, and how you interact with others, we all know what is right and what is wrong.
If you (or someone you know) cannot distinguish right from wrong, you (they) could be a sociopath. If this person does know but doesn’t care, they could be a psychopath. Both sociopaths and psychopaths also show a lack of empathy (the ability to understand or sense feelings in another).