“Student says, ‘I am very discouraged. What should I do?’ Master says, ‘Encourage others.'”- Zen Proverb
We’ve noticed that many relationships (sometimes even our own) contain less-than-healthy recurring arguments (inability to resolve conflict), condescending communication, withdrawal (silent treatment), hypersensitivity (defensiveness), suspicion (jealousy), sarcasm, criticism, bitterness, distrust, lack of meaningful time spent as a couple, lack of respect, and overall lack of kindness and sympathy. Some relationships deal with one or more of those interrelated negatives. Of course there are good times, but the former are still more dominant than they could be in many relationships. If you’re reading this, we’re assuming that you’re ready to recognize your flaws (as we are) and are trying to improve. Right?
Something David witnessed on the TTC (Toronto’s Public Transit) bus lead us to reflect on the important role that being kind without expectation has in creating Relationship Zen. Here’s a working definition of kindness without expectation that we got from someone else:
“To be kind is to be connected without expectation, to act without hoping for reciprocation. For me there is no ego in kindness, no show – just genuine heart.” –Stacy K. W.
We believe that if couples don’t consciously work on being kind WITHOUT expectation, pressures from the world we live in (ie: Hollywood) are more likely to cause us to drift towards the more negative interactions (think Jersey Shore :P). Here are the inspiring events that occurred on the TTC between four strangers:
Two passengers who were not from Toronto tried to enter the bus with incorrect transfers. The driver instantly became aggressive and they became defensive. He was obviously distrustful and bitter against riders. Then, another passenger behind the two original passengers yelled to the group: “C’mon, let’s get moving! We have places to be!” to which the driver snapped back in a hypersensitive way: “I’m trying to educate these two ladies on the transfer system because they don’t know it!”
At that point it got quiet, giving the driver time to regain his composure. He let people on the bus and started to drive while patiently explaining the system to the two ladies, letting go of the expectations he created for the new passengers and therefore letting go of his negative emotions. They actually got into a deep conversation about the TTC, life, and people. He listened to their frustrations about the system and they listened to his frustrations about other passengers who had deliberately tried to fool him in the past. They made each other laugh & smile. He spoke to them all the way to their stop and bid them a pleasant evening: “I know the system can be complicated at first, but I know that you’ll understand it completely in no time. Have a nice evening.” It was a transformative experience for them, and all those who consciously observed it.
Two stops later, it was the former angry passenger’s time to get off the bus. The driver tapped her on the shoulder as she walked past his seat and with one hand on his heart he said in a soft and genuine way: “I’m truly sorry for snapping at you earlier. That was very rude of me.” To which she replied sincerely: “… Oh no, I’m the one who should be sorry. I was being ignorant and you were doing your job… but thank you.” The driver took a moment to reply, then said: “Thanks… you just made my day, thanks…” They both smiled and she wished him a good night. David was shocked by this honest and geniune exchange.
When was the last time you had such a genuine exchange of kindness? The kindness that was displayed here was different from the kindness we witness in relationships – even in our own sometimes. Think back to when you first started dating someone. They were really kind, weren’t they? And yet you were strangers!
Somewhere down the line people become angry, selfish, and critical because they becomeattached to an image of you that may not actually BE you, and vice-versa. The trick with kindness is not starting, it’s maintaining.
Expectations usually lead us to do things either because it soothes our egos or because weexpect reciprocity. Those are poor motivations because they are based on selfishnessrather than on authentic kindness. Being motivated consciously or subconsciously by your ego and/or expectations cause us to mistreat each other in the ways described at the beginning. Can you relate?
Lessons learned from the bus driver and the three passengers, adapted from a blog post fromTiny Buddha:
- Truly let your partner vent to you when they are upset (listen and comfort), instead of focusing on a time you weren’t fully supported by them: He listened to their frustrations about the system and they listened to his frustrations about other passengers who had deliberately tried to fool him in the past.
- Let your partner know how you feel about them (call during the day to say hello), even it means you are vulnerable for a few minutes – even if they don’t do the same for you:
“Thanks… you just made my day, thanks…”
- Apologize unconditionally to your partner when you’ve acted selfishly or arrogantly (speak kindly and gently); even if you don’t feel like you were wrong, everyone deserves to be respected: “I’m truly sorry for snapping at you earlier. That was very rude of me.”
- Tell your partner that you believe in their potential, even if they haven’t been performing to your standards: “I know the system can be complicated at first, but I know that you’ll understand it completely in no time. Have nice evening.”
- Tell your partner that you know they meant well instead of using their mistake to manipulate the situation in your favour: “… Oh no, I’m the one who should be sorry. I was being ignorant and you were doing your job… but thank you”.
To safeguard against the effects of ego and expectation, even at a subconscious level, we like to keep our kindness in check by asking ourselves: “what is my underlying expectation?”. This helps to let go of any expectations of ego building. At first you may think that selflessness is weak, but with practice, you will find that genuine kindness (empty of expectation) will be as great for your personal development as it will for your relationships with others. True love can only manifest itself without showy kindness and the expectations of reciprocity that we impose on others.
Examples to get started in your relationship: give a heartfelt good morning, spend undivided time together before bed, randomly help with chores, do favors without expectation, make something for them, call to say something nice, meditate on the positives in your relationship, etc.
It is one of the most beautiful compensations in life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.– Emerson, Ralph Waldo