One of the exercises for my Anthropedia training included developing a list all of feelings that I link to the expression of love and kindness. It seemed like such an easy task, and who doesn’t love to make out lists? Ha! But when I sat down to write the list, I realized a sudden limitation of my own vocabulary. What feelings do I think about when I feel love or kindness towards someone? I mean, it seems so obvious, you love someone so you feel love, right? I mean, I guess “warm and fuzzy” don’t really qualify as formal definitions. Needless to say, I had some work to do in this area.
I finally came up with this list, and no…it’s not my exhaustive list. But it’s a start. I associate all of these things, in various forms, to the idea of love and kindness: Gratitude, kindness, compassion, joy, warmth, forgiveness, generosity, understanding, patience, thoughtfulness, happiness, adoration, helpfulness, meaningful, a sense of belonging, frankness, tolerance, comfortable, trusting, acceptance, modesty, and inspiration.
The second part of this exercise was to spontaneously define each of those words and then compare it to the formal definition in a dictionary and decide which definition I wanted to go with. Then I needed to think of a specific time when I experienced that particular word. My initial thought was ‘holy cow, that’s going to take some time’. But I knew that it would be worth it to complete this exercise and see how evident love and kindness are in my life. So I did it, and going through each word, figuring out what I thought it meant and comparing to a formal definition really helped me understand how I use the words in my daily life. The best part was writing one sentence about a time I experienced each of the words in an interaction with someone. Boy, talk about a fun task….yes, it took me a little longer than I would like to admit when it came to some of the words, such as ‘tolerance’! I tend to be pretty passionate about my views so it was a good practice to think about the last time I truly experienced tolerance with someone. It also made me super aware of how many opportunities I miss to experience more love and kindness through some of these actions.
Overall, I realized that I can easily identify moments when I feel love or kindness from a family member or close friend but I often overlook those times when every day people opt to show kindness or spread love and I am the lucky recipient. Whether it’s experiencing gratitude from the lady at the DMV who helped me clear up a mistake on a traffic ticket, or understanding from a coworker who simply lets me vent about a crappy day, or the unknown driver who patiently let me merge on the highway instead of speeding to pass me up (and therefore is practicing tolerance)! All of the opportunities are times when I can choose to experience love and kindness exactly as they are and store the goodness to help me through those days when it may not be so abundant. My hope is that after reviewing my sharpened vocabulary related to expression of love and kindness; it makes me more aware of how I can promote it within my own interactions each day as well.