You’ve heard of tough love. Those times when you have to tell someone you love that they are wrong, or have messed up, or even have to have some kind of intervention.

Tough kindness is tough love’s brother. And it is just as hard to practice. Why is kindness called a religion? Because it goes against our selfish human nature, the one that demands satisfaction now, gives into anger, and doesn’t treat others the way we want to be treated, but rather responds to the way we are treated.

This week has been a week of Thanksgiving. (See my Ungrateful Ass post earlier in the week) and I also had a birthday. At this time of celebration, I also learned a couple of things about people around me. So it pains me to say that while I rejoice in what I have, and I celebrate another year above ground, I must practice some tough kindness. Here are a few things I have learned.

Give in to what the other person wants. Sometimes what people think they want is not what they want at all. Just like a child reaching for a container of poison: the kind thing for a parent to do is stop them. However, sometimes when someone is an adult, their desires overwhelm common sense. Tough kindness is simply letting them have it.

Say no to negativity. It’s not a contradiction. Negative people with negative energy often want others to engage with them in unkind activities, justifying them by the actions of others. The hardest thing to do is say no: to practice kindness despite perceived injury. The person who injured you did not make you feel a certain way, but your reaction to them produced feelings. While these feelings cannot always be helped, chasing them with unkindness almost never produces positive results.

Avoid selfish attachment. Do you know what jealousy really is? It is an expression of fear over the loss of an attachment to something or someone. True love, true friendship has no place for fear. Friendship and love are not possessions, nor are they feelings. They are commitments engaged in by another, freely. You cannot own a commitment, nor can you control its length or depth. You can only control your own commitments, and must recognize the decisions others make have more to do with their attachments than your own.

Tough kindness has a common theme. We must relinquish the desire to control others, let them have what they want, while saying no to the negativity they wish to bring into our own lives. Finally, we must avoid jealousy and selfish attachment.

These are not always the answers. But at times, practicing tough kindness is the best way to rise above the chaos around you.