Why You Should Smile At People You Hate

Respond to negativity with kindness, and watch your life change.

Matt Lillywhite
Apr 4, 2020 · 4 min read
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Photo by loly galina on Unsplash

I was bullied throughout every single day of my teenage years. Each day, I’d turn up to school, walk through the corridors, and suffer an extraordinary amount of verbal abuse for what seemed like no reason.

My mind was in a perpetual state of overdrive. Negative feelings of anxiety lingered in my head. Despite knowing that I was different, I felt powerless as I couldn’t do anything to change the actions of other people.

I just wanted them to accept me.

So while everyone else was playing soccer on the field, I was sitting in a lonely corner of the building, and imagining a life in which I could finally be happy.

But while reading a book on a Wednesday lunchtime, I came across the following quote by Marcus Aurelius, which completely changed my way of thinking:

“Tranquility comes when you stop caring what they say. Or think, or do. Only what you do.”

But if you can focus on becoming a better person, and practice kindness each day, you’ll feel much happier as you’ll have control over your perception of the world.

From this, I learned that staying angry at the people who bullied me would have no beneficial effect on my life. But if I could learn to be kind and forgive those who wronged me, my mindset would inevitably change for the better. Quoting the Roman emperor, Marcus Aurelius, once more:

“Choose not to be harmed — and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed — and you haven’t been.”

You can only be harmed by negative actions from your enemy if you allow them to penetrate your character. So whenever you get an opportunity, practice kindness instead of hatred, and your life will be much better as a result.

A great truth of life is that people are often nasty because there are negative emotions within them, and they want to feel better about their own circumstances.

So it’s important to remember that you don’t have power over the actions of other people. But one thing you can control is your reaction and how you respond to them in any given situation. For example:

  • If someone leaves a negative comment on your Instagram photo, try not to take it personally. Instead, a better solution is to avoid escalating the situation by replying with a kind comment.
  • Whenever someone tries to criticize you, find a positive in the situation, and recognize that they were ignorant of all your other faults.
  • If you have to be in a room with people that you dislike, try to search for things you can agree upon, instead of arguing over what you don’t.

My favorite quote from Seneca goes like this: “Whenever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for kindness.” I’m empathetic to the fact that responding to anger with kindness is a difficult mindset shift to make. But if you can learn to smile at everyone you meet, the world will certainly be a much better place.

I’m going to leave you with a final quote from Marcus Aurelius, who speaks about the importance of practicing kindness in your daily life. He says:

“When people injure you, ask yourself what good or harm they thought would come of it. If you understand that, you’ll feel sympathy rather than outrage or anger. Your sense of good and evil may be the same as theirs, or near it, in which case you have to excuse them. Or your sense of good and evil may differ from theirs. In which case, they’re misguided and deserve your compassion. Is that so hard?”

Don’t overthink it. Just smile, remain optimistic in the face of negativity and watch your life change.

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Mind Cafe

Relaxed, inspiring essays about happiness.

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