Over the holidays I crossed paths with someone who, for many reasons, I am uncomfortable being around. I was prepared to say a brief hello and move on, however was caught off guard when he reached out and gave me THE MOST AWKWARD HUG EVER. I returned the hug, but immediately felt weird. Tense. Annoyed. Irritated. In fact, that hug bothered me for the rest of the day. I didn’t feel right about accepting it. But I didn’t feel right about being an asshole either. What was I supposed to do?
I kept telling myself to quit worrying about it. “Geez Kristen, you’re overthinking this. You did the right thing. You were kind. Let it go.”
“Kind.” There it was. That was the part that bothered me. He had crossed a boundary, and rather than letting him know it, I chose to be… polite. But is polite the same thing as kind? I’ve come up with no.
Being kind is one of my things these days. Hell, I even put it on my facebook cover. But what does that mean to me? I thought I knew, but here was the Universe, putting me in a situation that made me uncomfortable enough to investigate.
The conclusion I’ve reached is that if being polite takes you out of your integrity, then it is unkind to yourself and unkind to others.
Case in Point: I knew a guy once who bragged that he had never broken up with a girlfriend in his entire life. (He claimed it was to protect their feelings.)
“What did you do when you didn’t want to date them anymore?” I asked.
“Well, they always figured it out gradually,” he said.
Was his method polite? Eh, maybe. Was it kind? To string these women along for weeks, months, or even years, until they eventually concluded that this dude didn’t want to be with them anymore? All together now ladies: HELL. NO. Mr. Manners could have saved everybody a lot of time and trouble by being up front and honest about his feelings.
So back to that hug that had me all bent out of shape. I’ve learned that if I’m pissed off, I can always trace the source of the piss-offedness right back to myself. If Huggy McHuggerson felt it was appropriate to come wrap me in an embrace, who was responsible for showing him differently? Oh, right. Me. (We teach people how to treat us.)
Maybe it’s my generation. Maybe it’s just me. (You all let me know your experience with this.) But I was taught to be polite at the cost of my integrity. At the cost of my own happiness. Even at the cost of my morals and values sometimes. Fuck that.
Don’t want a hug? Or another piece of pie? Or to stay in your relationship? Or to go purse shopping with your friend? SAY IT. (There are ways to do so without being cruel.) We’ve talked before about what happens when we find ourselves living lives we don’t want to live. It is showing kindness to yourself when you are true to your integrity. It is showing kindness to others when you give them all the information about where they stand with you.
After chewing on this idea for a while, I saw the weird hug moment playing out in three possible scenarios. A polite one, an unkind one, and a kind one.
- Polite (what actually happened that day): “Oh hi, uh, gosh, ummmm we’re hugging. Ok.” *hugs back awkwardly; fumes for the rest of the day*
- Unkind (what my ego wanted to do): “What the hell do you think you’re doing? Get the f away from me- we don’t hug!” *shoves hugger-in-question into green bean casserole*
- Kind (what I will do next time): “No thanks, I don’t want a hug.” *calmly walks away*
As you can see here, I think hugs are great. I love them. But next time I find myself in a situation of unpleasant-hugging-weirdness-which-is-outside-of-my-integrity, I will say, “No thank you!” directly and kindly.
Whew. Glad I got that one figured out. I feel much better now. ?