You will never regret being kind. You will never regret having hope. You will never regret prioritising happiness. You will never regret being yourself. You will never regret taking chances.
People think regret is born out of bad choices, but more often than not, regret is the result of not making a choice. Taking a chance may come with consequences, but that is a risk we have to take. Because if you’re too afraid of consequences or being hurt and refuse to take action on the important things, life will pass you by in the blink of an eye and you might miss it. On your deathbed, it won’t be the decisions you made that you regret, but the bites you didn’t take.
Happiness is an active process, not something that will come to you passively. So choose to be kind and choose to be hopeful. Choose to laugh and choose to love. Choose to be the person you want to be, living the life you want to live.
“Hello babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. On the outside, babies, you’ve got a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies: Goddamn it, you’ve got to be kind.”
~ Kurt Vonnegut
Life is difficult and it can feel as if we have been thrown in the deep end sometimes. No one tells you word for word the correct way to interact with another human being, or how to balance your work and personal life, or what the meaning of life is. Because of this, social interactions are rife with awkwardness, misunderstandings and getting hurt.
But perhaps if we all followed Vonnegut’s rule, life would be just a little bit easier to navigate through.
Life is hard. We are always fighting against the challenges of life, such as stress from work, financial hardship and relationship problems. People deal with hardships through different means. Some travel to catch some fresh air, while others seek the support of a friend or loved one. Although we ought to be spending our days in the pursuit of happiness, instead we are more often trying desperately to find a way to escape misery.
Amongst all this, we forget a very simple fact. Others around us are going through just as hard a life as we are. A sad truth about the human condition is that in times of stress, we instinctively become self-preserving. At the end of the day, evolution favours those who are able to save their own skin. Because of this, we are always seeking support and kindness to help us escape our misery, while often turning a blind eye to other people’s misery.
When is the last time you asked a friend about what’s really going on in their lives? It is much more common for us to blurt out what’s troubling us than asking others about their own troubles. We could be complaining to our friends about something trivial compared to the strife they are going through, but we would not know because we had not asked.
Even worse, what about strangers on the streets? If someone was rude to us, it would sour our day. But if we were rude to someone because we were genuinely in a rush or having a terrible day, we excuse ourselves and do not think much of it. How do we know that that person isn’t having the worst day of their lives and we just made it worse?
Of course it is impossible to know of all the bad things happening to everyone. We can make an effort to reduce the burden of our friends by being supportive, but it is hard to do that for someone you meet for less than a minute on the streets.
So perhaps the solution is this: be generous with your kindness. You have no idea what situation the other person is in, but it is hard to do wrong when you treat everyone around you with kindness. At worst, you’ve expended a small part of your emotional energy. At best, you’ve become more empathetic and happy, while making someone’s day. Never forget how much difference you can make with simple acts and words of kindness.