“The Kindness Game” is a revised version of an essay I posted to the Real Men Watch My Little Pony Facebook group in June of 2012.
Today, because of rain, what should have been an easy commute lasted two hours. It involved a lot of standing in crunched up awkward positions that wreaked havoc on my lousy back. The bus ride was crowded, painful, and pretty much impossible to walk away from without feeling like utter garbage.
However, somewhere along the journey, I whipped out my phone, and I happened to look at a piece of Fluttershy fan art. It dawned on me that there was another way. I came up with something I call The Kindness Game.
It sounds lame, but hear me out. Ordinarily, your natural impulse in a situation like that is to get mad. You can’t help that. But why let an uncomfortable situation rob you of all the ponyjoy you’ve built up in your heart?
Anger is about power, and it rises up when you feel powerless. Your physical well-being is depleted, and your sense of the way it ought to befeels violated. Then, to top it off, when it’s all over, you end up feeling regret because you didn’t act according to your best nature when you were angry. Anger, bio-chemically speaking, makes you act like a great big jerk.
That’s why you turn it into a game. Here’s how you play. If something frustrates you, you turn around and be positive anyway. You smile at the bus driver, you drop a buck in a homeless guy’s cup, you give up your seat to someone significantly more infirm than you. Then you say to yourself, “Score! I totally didn’t let that situation defeat me!”
I’m not saying you turn your anger inward. I’m not saying you let it bottle up inside. I’m saying attack the problem at its source. In a situation that there’s no way to pragmatically fix, rather than feel powerless and get angry, can totally own the day. You do it by realizing that kindness is still an option left open to you.
The way to defeat a bad situation like that is to refuse to let it bring you down. Today, on the bus, I found little excuses to do something nice for other people. It was totally like playing a game, and once I looked at it like that, I played it aggressively.
I actually got the biological impulse for rage to translate into physical acts of kindness. Pretty soon I was acting like Pinkie Pie, and aiming to win me some smiles, but I felt more like Snowflake (Yeahhhhhh!).
Then, just like that, I wasn’t angry anymore. I no longer felt powerless. It had been that simple all along. Sure, at the end of the commute, my back still hurt, (and it would have regardless), but I came out, for the most part, feeling pretty fantastic, because the situation sucked, and I got to say to myself “I played the Kindness Game, and I bucking won” (Snowflake: “Yeeeeaahhhh!”).
Anger of course, has its place. As a parent, I bring it with me to every single school meeting to ensure that I’m the best advocate I can be for my child. Anger also fuels action against social injustice. However, in most day-to-day situations, it just consumes us – gives us ulcers. Those are the situations where you whip out the Kindness Game.
NOTE: I am not sharing this to brag of my minor victories. I’m sharing this to thank the fandom for being the inspiration for this game, (after all, it was a piece of brony-made fan art that pulled me out of the gutter in the first place), and to encourage you to try it. It sounds silly. It sounds stupid and Self Help Book-ish, but I swear, it actually works, especially if you think about pony while you play. Anyway, on a personal note, this fandom taught me how to make kindness a lifestyle. Thanks. I hope that, in return, my game will be of some use to you.
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