Saturday, April 12, 2014

Kindness and Karma

A to Z challenge

Day 11: K is for Kindness and Karma


Kindness doesn’t come naturally to me. I come from a long line of mean women. The type of warrior women who enjoy revenge and get satisfaction from digging the knife in a little deeper.

Maybe it’s because we are from a working class background where you fight to survive, maybe it’s from being scared or maybe it’s our misguided way of snatching back power from a culture where women are not appreciated.

Truth be told, Irish women hold the family together but are not often celebrated for doing so. In our family, there were lots of jokes about the “ball and chain” and family life was peppered by my Dad’s underlying resentment towards my mother for making him grow up. We all jockeyed for approval from him and if participating in his put-downs of my mother was part of that we were all too willing.

It must have been lonely for her at times. She was from the era where it was unladylike to protest so her anger went underground and she got mean. She is the master of passive-aggressive and can control a whole room without ever getting pinned as being the one who started it all. My mom is not a bad person. She just has some bad habits.

There is also this philosophy in my family that nice guys finish last and to be successful you had to come out fighting. If you don’t trample your enemies you don’t achieve fame or fortune.
Since I learned from a pro, I’m capable of fighting dirty and manipulating people around like chess pieces. I can zoom in on someone’s weakness almost unconsciously and then – BAM – use it against them when they aren’t looking. They don’t know what hit them.

This may have served me well in the corporate world but I’ve screwed up many friendships and relationships with this behaviour. My payback has been loneliness and the knowledge that I behaved badly.

Office politics is like crack for me – I get high from the power of out-manoeuvring people. However, I can never completely follow through; when it comes time to finally shove that knife in the back there is always my moment of hesitation and doubt. When I’m winning a dirty fight, there’s a part of me not fully engaged, the side who secretly steps in and causes a miscalculation so I would blow it and lose the fight. Then the high would be over and I would be standing wondering what the hell had happened. Why did I even get involved in the first place? I think that secret side of me working in the background was actually healthier and stronger than the crack side of me.

Being kind towards people is easier for me. I don’t fool myself though. I’m not a saint. There's still a part of me who wants her fix of mean. If I had been just a tinier bit better at cutthroat corporate politics I wouldn’t be moving towards kindness and compassion. I would have been seduced by all that power and money.

No, it's not kindness stopping me from fully participating in the whole mean-girl routine and achieving success as the biggest bitch on the block. It's lack of energy. I’m weak. I don’t have the stamina to keep up the whole hyper vigilance, the constant search for hidden enemies and agendas, the plotting of counter measures and strategies that comes from living life mean and hard. I couldn’t maintain it while playing monopoly with my siblings and I couldn’t keep it up in the corporate world.

 So, maybe being a failure at being mean is a kind of success in a weird round about way.

Working on being a good person seems like a better long-term goal. I've also come to believe in Karma. Not the simplistic New-Age version, where there is instant delivery on your good deeds. I see Karma as more of a collective pot, a universal source for everyone to draw on that offers compassion and kindness to those who need it most.

I throw in my act of kindness and the pot gets a bit fuller. Maybe I don’t get to draw on the pot immediately but it’s not being drained. The path of kindness is not exciting as vanishing enemies or engaging in power struggles but I do sleep better at night.


  1. Oh wow! I can relate to your post in so many ways... I have some wonderful women in my life who are master manipulators... It took me forever to realize just how vulnerable I was to their plans. I've also been guilty of going along to get along at someone else's expense..Corporate politics and whether or not to be involved in them used to make me physically ill.... All of those things in your story resonate with me - and I'm grateful they don't have such a hold on me any more...Kindness is much more peaceful. Good Karma to you!

  2. Shelagh, we're kindred souls. Reading this felt like reading about myself: the put-downs to mom, the long line of mean women, the corporate stuff, the lack of energy to keep up with the "constant vigilance"--you put it so well! Yes, kindness doesn't pump as much adrenaline, but--hey, we're learning. I'm looking forward to reading more of your blog, during and after April :)

    Thanks for finding me over at Life In Dogs -- so very, very glad you did.

  3. Fascinating! I've known many people that absolutely adore the game of office politics. At least, that's how I've tried to understand their motivation - some kind of game to get on top or move up the chain, or challenge. To me, it was so exhausting and overwhelming to witness (or have in my face) that I've since left corporations and now have dogs as my coworkers. Politics are way simpler now! It's so interesting to hear the exhaustion on the other side, and other reasons for why people are drawn to the politics. The family history, and the complex challenges of being involved in them, does make a lot of sense. Excellent post!