As the year comes to an end, I have become increasingly disturbed at some of the behavior that we have witnessed this year. How can we justify a person driving their car into a group of innocent bystanders? Or a group of young boys lighting a handicapped boy on fire because he was different? Or when was it ever appropriate to burn and destroy the property of others as a way of expressing disagreement? Can we judge others based solely on opinion in the absence of concrete evidence?
On the other hand, there has been evidence of those who risked life and limb to pull others from a burning car. A community of rivals bond together to show support for a player who was killed in a shooting. And a hedge fund partner, like many others, anonymously paid the debt of a needy family. Wherever we look, we can find examples of behavior that are demeaning or enlightening.
Unfortunately, even though there are good things happening in the world, the media often chooses to highlight events that are negative, sensational, and violent. As we are increasingly exposed to negativity, many are becoming cynical, hard-hearted, calloused, self-centered, and blinded to the good in the world. The historical documents signal that when a people become past feeling that their hearts become hardened and their eyes become blinded. Such an idea suggests that we may see and are blind, we may hear and are deaf, and we may feel not and lack understanding. I believe that Jacob Marley rightly proclaimed to his partner Ebenezer Scrooge that although he was a good man of business, he had forgotten that “mankind was [his] business.”
Try as we might, as parents, we are struggling to teach our children that hard work delivers more than entitlement, that integrity is better than immorality, that commitment is superior to irresponsibility, that compassion far outweighs intolerance, that honesty is more rewarding than deceit, and loyalty overcomes rebellion. But as you know, these lessons and values are not easily learned.
As part of this holiday season, I would issue you a challenge to bring more light into your life and the lives of others by honestly assessing your own behavior. If you can become more aware of your thoughts and actions, then perhaps you might make some changes that will restore good will in your part of the world. Here are some questions for your consideration.
1. What do you give most freely? Certainly there is something that you might offer to others. Looking at what you most frequently give will allow you to give it more deliberately and consciously.
2. What could you give that you often withhold? This is a tough one because it forces you to identify that which you might keep for yourself. I know in my case it is my time that I guard preciously. It’s difficult for me to take time away from what seems important at the time. However, I have learned that time is one of the most welcome gifts I can offer to others. So, when my eight-year old wants me to lie down with her at night and tell her stories that I make up, even if it doesn’t fit my designated plans for the evening, I do it and am glad for the invitation.
3. Do you most frequently trumpet your own accomplishments or those of others? Often when people are fishing for compliments, they may be lacking the security of validation or affirmation that seems to elude them. I find myself doing the same when I don’t receive or recognize positive reinforcement for my efforts. Offering sincere and honest appreciation and recognition to others pays high dividends, both to them, and to us. Although they cost us little, sincere, positive words can make a huge difference in our relationships with others; such words are prized and are priceless and are so easy to give away.
4. Do you render service to those who are in need? Your answer to this question may include those who are members of your family, your circle of influence, or those who are not. This question will force you to look for service opportunities that you normally might miss. Once you recognize those opportunities to do something for someone else, hopefully you will take full advantage of them.
5. Do you make a deliberate effort to put others before yourself? When it is dinner time at our house, my children often act like they haven’t eaten for a week. They jockey to get to certain foods before the others. When they are successful at getting to what they want, they try to take a huge portion that doesn’t leave much for the rest of us. We are working on it through reminders to think of others as well as themselves. As humans, it is much easier to think of ourselves first. Cultivating an “others-before-self” perspective takes discipline, patience, and practice.
6. Do you make an effort to lighten the burden of others? There are many kinds of burdens. Some are grieving the loss of a loved one. Some are cold and hungry. Others are lonely and feel abandoned. Many have limited financial resources and lack the hope of a brighter tomorrow. I know that if you ask yourself, “Whose burden might I lighten?” that an answer will come to you as a thought or a whisper in your mind. Then it will be up to you to do something about it. But responding to that whisper may make all the difference to someone else.
7. Is what you are currently giving to others what they really want or need? This is a tough question to answer because you may find that what you feel is important to give to others may not be what they want. When I was younger, I used to tell myself that working long hours and spending a lot of time traveling to see clients was what I gave of myself to best support and take care of my family. Unfortunately, it took me a few years to realize that was not what my family wanted. What they wanted was me—my presence and my time, not the extra money that working such long hours provided. Being honest about the gifts that you give others may help you to find ways to give them what they really want and need.
8. Do you take time to brighten and shine your light on others? During the month of December, I have challenged my family members to do one thing each day for someone else. Here are some things that you might do: Put an inspirational thought on social media, work serving meals at a local care shelter, donate food items to the local food bank, go visit an elderly person, run some errands for those who need help, call and thank your mother or father, leave an anonymous gift, be kind instead of always being “right,” turn off the electronics for an evening and do something interactive, listen, or point out a virtue in someone that they don’t see themselves. This list can be endless, but if made and implemented, the results can be amazing.
The holidays are a time for reflection and doing good. It is a time for softening our hearts and remembering that the business of mankind is the strengthening of our humanity. That softening can only take place as we consider, serve, and love one another. I hope that you will take the time to do that. Indeed, our survival as a civil society, may depend upon each of our efforts.
If you are in the Salt Lake City area, I’m hosting a Lunch & Learn event on January 27th. Please come and be my guest. Click here to get all the details.View Comments