I have a problem with other people’s successes. There, I said it. It’s out in the light. Take it away, God. Rip this pride and jealousy and ego and selfishness out of my life from the roots. It has no room to coexist with kindness.
But the entire time I’m reading their blogs and books, I have a pinch in my heart. How do they come up with these perfectly turned phrases? How can they string so many eloquent statements together that it becomes an actual book? And why can’t I do it?
That’s the sticky spot. Clearly they have something I don’t have, and in my most shameful moments, it makes me mad.
Do you ever feel that way? Do you ever ask yourself questions like: Why does she have money to go on vacation when I don’t? Why can she get away with eating ice cream every night and I can’t? Why does her marriage seem so much more fulfilling than mine?
Am I alone in the boat here? Maybe your thoughts are different than mine, but I bet you have them. Or perhaps you’re at the spiritual level that I’m aiming for and have already uprooted all the nastiness from your life. If so, please teach me. When does the breakthrough come?
Just before Christmas, one of my children was struggling with the ugly cousin of jealousy. Selfishness. As much as we would harp on the child to lose the selfishness, it was still quickly becoming a regular guest in our home.
After about four days, it occurred to me: The best way to lose a habit/mindset/behavior is to replace it with something else. You don’t tell a smoker, “Well, just don’t smoke.” You have to give them something else to focus on until the craving passes and eventually a more productive habit takes its place. So that’s what we did.
I marched down to the basement, got waist-deep in a closet that really needs to be de-cluttered, and emerged with five tiny notebooks in hand.
Gratitude journals. Every night we spend a few minutes privately reflecting on our day and then writing down five things for which we are grateful. The kindergartner in the household gets help from mom and dad — I think last night he was grateful for five separate bathtub toys. The big kids are on their own. No judgment. No grading scale. Just write what comes into your heart.
You know what I’ve noticed? We aren’t using the “S” word nearly as often. And Mom needs this gratitude journal as much as the kids, because it works for the “J” word, too. When I force myself to sit down and form the letters that form the words, I am able to see that we are all given gifts. Specifically, we are all given different gifts. I may or may not have any sort of book in my future and you may or may not have a renewal in your marriage, but if you look at the examples other people set and say “It can be done!” instead of “It can only be done by them,” you’ll have much more room in your life for kindness.
Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or send a letter to Kindness is Contagious c/o Nicole J. Phillips, The Forum, 101 5th St. N., Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107.
Nicole J. Phillips is a former television anchor for Fox News in Fargo. She is a writer, speaker and mother of three kids. Nicole is married to Ohio University’s men’s head basketball coach Saul Phillips. Her column runs every Saturday. You can visit Nicole at nicolejphillips.com.