The One Lesson You Need to Learn This Holiday Season
The holidays are about kindness. Well, the kindness is hidden beneath mounds of credit card debt from all the gifts you're buying for your loved ones and for the bastards you barely tolerate from your office Secret Santa pool. The kindness is in there, somewhere. So there's no better time of year to tell a personal tale of a tiny moment in my own life when kindness, happiness, respect, and all of those wonderful holiday feelings were something more than some words printed on the $25 Macy's gift card I give my mom every Christmas.
Part 1: Andrew Luck Kills With Kindness
Before I begin, let's talk a little bit about Andrew Luck, quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts. Luck is an incredible quarterback with immense skill, but he also has a secret weapon at his disposal that tips the odds in his favor whenever he takes the field. It's a deadly weapon, and he wields it like a kung-fu master artfully wields the torn-off arm of an enemy to mercilessly beat other enemies. It turns out Luck is a really, really super-duper nice guy who compliments opponents after they tackle him. Opposing defenses are absolutely baffled by this. They have no idea how to react to kindness.
"GET THE HELL AWAY FROM ME YOU CRAZY BITCH" -a football player
It's a violent sport filled with alpha males raging on horse steroids, and they're more equine than human by now. Yet, here's a guy who says, "Good job!" after getting demolished by armored horse-people, and the armored horse-people have existential breakdowns in response. And all because Luck is a good dude. I really hope he doesn't rape or pummel anyone in the future, or else that sentence will look mighty stupid.
Part 2: A Complimentary Psych-Out
I played roller hockey in my early teenage years. My team was good, but we had a rival team in our division that knew exactly how to beat us, every time. We hated them. We especially hated their goalie. He was, without a doubt, the best goalie anyone in our age group -- in our league and in others around town -- had ever seen. He was the kind of good that was fun to watch from the stands but agonizing to deal with. None of us would ever have a shot at making it to the NHL, but it didn't matter: we got to play against a goalie that, as far as we were concerned, was as good as a pro.
During an important game that would decide our final playoff positioning, we faced this rival team and their goddamn goalie. He was performing spectacularly that day. He was cutting off shot opportunities with great positioning, he was making acrobatic saves that had us convinced he had a Slinky for a spine, he was establishing a presence by roughing up any opposing player who dared to hammer home an easy goal off of a rebound (that would be me). The game was scoreless after the first period, and already it seemed like our team wouldn't be scoring any goals that night. He was just too good. I hated how much better he was than us. Where we played like kids still trying to see the game's Matrix code, he played like Jesus Neo from the Matrix sequels.
Like this, but hockey.
I hated, hated, HATED him.
And then, I didn't.
I can't tell you exactly what caused it -- maybe he made a particularly impressive save? -- but my hate vacated my brain like it had been sucked out of an airlock to freeze and die in space. It was replaced with one undeniable, immutable vision of truth: this fucker was really good. I had already known that. It was old news. But now it wasn't clouded by my competitive nature, by my need to impress myself, my team, my coach, and my mom, with a goal. I needed something to replace the hate, so I decided to compliment the guy. And that's what I did on his next great save. I said, "Great save!" then skated away. He didn't say anything. He watched me skate ahead like he was trying to figure out what I had just said, like he had misheard me.
Minutes later, he made another great save. I said, "Great save, man!" His thanks were compulsory, like his programming spit out a human's involuntary response to being complimented.
"BLEEP BLOOP. EXECUTING FILE: C:/DESKTOP/HUMAN_EMOTION/COMPLIMENTS/BEFUDDLED_THANK_YOU.MP3"
Later in the game, I said it again. He gave me a distrustful thank you. Later still, I said it again. He said thank you, and then he complimented me back, still confused, still not quite sure how to handle a sudden and bizarre barrage of compliments. I was slowly building a person's self-esteem when I should have been trying to embarrass him for my own gain -- and it felt nice. It was nice to finally be honest. It was nice to drop the facade of competitiveness, the stupid macho must-win bullshit that keeps people from appreciating and admiring the great talent of a person with whom they're locked in direct competition. We all knew he was good but wanted to believe, for the sake of our pride, that he wasn't that good. More importantly, we wanted to believe that we were better. But I couldn't. Now, I could finally admit it: he was that goddamn good, and apparently telling him that over and over freaked him the fuck out.
Soon after my onslaught of genuine compliments, we scored a goal. Then we scored again. Then I scored. It went on like this until our goals failed to excite anyone, even our easily excitable parents sitting in the bleachers. Something happened to the goalie. Soon after I began carpet-bombing his soul with positivity, he started to break. He wasn't as sharp. His focus had been obliterated.
All I wanted to do was let this guy know that in an instant I went from being a desensitized warrior programmed to hate my enemy, to being a loving, self-esteem-building hippie who admired his work. He couldn't handle that.
I unwittingly shattered everything he knew about how the game was played. If he made a good save, I was supposed to skate away in a huff, feeling bad about how I couldn't defeat him, like I had many times before. I was supposed to get mad at him. His skill was supposed to build resentment between me, the only motherfucker doing any work on this team (as I'm sure 14-year-old me thought), and my teammates, the useless pricks clinging to my glory like barnacles to a whale's ass. None of that happened. Instead, I gave him soul hugs and his reaction might as well have included a mechanical wind-down sound as sparks and springs shot out of his head.
I killed him with kindness. That stupid saying is real. Holy shit -- it's real.
Part 3: Moralizing
The moral of Luck's story, as well as mine, is this: some out there aren't used to kindness, either giving or receiving. They retract from it. It's alien. They don't trust it. Eventually, though, you, through the mere force of being a good person, can make those around you realize it's OK to feel good about themselves and it's OK to make others feel good too. So be kind this holiday season. Be generous. Be complimentary. Go out there and make people feel good for the holidays. Because when all that kindness shit softens their brains and lowers their defenses until they're in a vulnerable, zombified state of self-satisfaction, you can swoop in and destroy them.
For more from Luis, check out 5 Ways Your Favorite Holidays Change as You Get Older Read more: http://www.cracked.com/members/limpl0uie/#ixzz3MyTytvbx. And then check out 5 Ways Your Favorite Holidays Change as You Get Older.
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