Posts Tagged ‘Behavior’

Kindness-MattersOur world needs more kindness.  It is a sad state of affairs when a simple act of kindness is so rare that it jumps out at us.

That happened to me today when delivering a few groceries to my mother-in-law.  Her apartment is on the 9th floor of her building.  When I got in the elevator behind an older man and woman, each of them using walkers, the man asked us what floors we wanted.  The lady said she needed the 8th floor and I said the 9th and we were on our way.  I assumed the man was also heading for the 8th or 9th floor because he didn’t push another button.

When we got to the 8th floor, the lady exited, but the man remained.  When we got to the 9th floor, I paused to allow the man to get off first, but he went for the elevator buttons again, this time saying that he was going back down to the 5th floor.  I thanked him and exited.  While walking away, I just shook my head in disbelief that the man apparently intentionally passed up his own floor just to operate the buttons for us and to get us to our floors first.  What a simple, selfless act of kindness from a man using a walker who was very much my senior!

Think about your typical day.  How many acts of kindness do you witness in others?  How many do you initiate?  Do you hold doors open for others, or do you let them close as someone else approaches, pretending you didn’t notice them coming?  Do you let cars in front of you or do you inch closer to that bumper ahead to keep another from sliding in?  How do you respond when people on the street ask for assistance?  Do you throw a few coins their way, ignore them, stop to find out their story or take them to a nearby restaurant for a meal?  How many see a family member – much less a stranger – in need and stop what they’re doing to help?  How many of us put aside our own agendas and task lists long enough to assist a coworker who is stressing out over a deadline or long list of things to get done?  How many times a day do you offer words of kindness that can encourage and lift up another soul?

Acts of kindness don’t have to be very time-consuming, although they may be.  They don’t have to cost any money, although they might.  They certainly don’t have to be planned in advance or broadcast afterward.  But they do need to be.  They need to happen, and it seems like that is only going to be the case if we are, indeed, kind people.

Kindness is not just an act; it is a character trait.  It is a quality that one chooses to value so much that it is a seemingly instinctive response to the world around us.  It may be demonstrated by those raised in environments where kindness was the norm, but it may also be a chosen response of those who experienced anything but kindness in their past – a determined response to break a chain of unhealthy behavior and replace it with something good.  Yes, kindness is a choice, but repeated often enough, it can and should become a way of life that hardly requires conscious choices any more.  It just becomes natural.

One simple example: I love stories of people in restaurant drive-through windows paying for the order of the people behind them as a random act of kindness.  Doing so tends to cause the beneficiaries to pass it on to the people behind them.

Kindness is included in that great list of spiritual gifts in Galatians 5:22-23 – “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  Against such things there is no law.”  Kindness is an indicator that we are no longer living just for ourselves, but that our hearts have been transformed by our Maker to be more like Him.

Yesterday I started following Jeremy Scrivens on Twitter.  In his profile, he states: “Many people are unhappy at work. This matters; so I devote my life to help leaders create Cultures of Kindness & social collaboration at work.”  Just a few of his tweets from the past day include:

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Acts of kindness can be so very simple, yet the impact can be great.  The impact may change immediate circumstances for the better of the beneficiary, but it may impact attitudes and future behavior which extends the life of the original act through ripples not tracked or even known by the original persons involved.  Also, the impact isn’t just on the recipients of kindness, but on the ones who extend the kindness to others.  Our motive for kindness should not be that we might feel good, yet there is something very satisfying in the soul about being kind.  We know in our hearts that it’s the right thing to do.

Today and each day this week, I encourage you to try to be more mindful about being kind to others in word and in deed.  Both can make a very big difference in someone else’s day and in their life.  And it may just make a big difference in yours as well.

Kindness matters.

ZimmermanTrialThere has been no shortage of opinions offered around the U.S. and beyond following the “not guilty” verdict of George Zimmerman in the murder of Trayvon Martin.  I don’t think the world needs any more opinions on the matter of his guilt or innocence, including my own.  The only truly educated opinions that matter come from those who were present in that courtroom and who have all of the information that is available, even if it is incomplete information.  Cries of guilt or innocence from others are based on incomplete information and factors such as emotions, histories and biases that presuppose much but prove nothing.

Having had some time to ponder the verdict, to watch reactions, and to read at least a few thoughtful, meaningful responses, I offer my response here:

So what are you going to do about it?  

I don’t mean that flippantly because this is nothing to take lightly.  I literally mean what actions are you going to take in response to what just unfolded before the nation and the world in this trial?  What are you going to do different this week than you might have done if the verdict had gone another way?  Are you going to be different on the inside because of this and, if so, what will that look like on the outside to others?

As I think about responses to the verdict from those in different roles and from different perspectives, I wonder about the following:

As a parent and grandparent, what will I teach my children and grandchildren about justice, about prejudice, about self-defense, and about how to answer the question “Who is my neighbor?”  Will my heart ache when I imagine the pain of parents who lost a child so senselessly and needlessly, and will I work to help prevent others from experiencing that same fate?

As a white man, will I try to understand the reaction of minorities who see all too many verdicts go against them (although in this case both parties involved were minorities)?

As a citizen, will I take action to improve laws that I believe to be inadequate?  Will I do my part to place in office those who can help make positive change?  Will I give of my time, energy and resources to change a justice system that too often allows injustice?  Will I get involved in my neighborhood watch program and work to make it function legally and reasonably?

As a Christian, will I mourn with those who mourn?  Will I pray not just for those who like me and are like me, but for those with whom I share little in common – even my enemies?  Will I represent Christ well in my compassion for all involved and in my desire for reconciliation between individuals, between races, and between people and God?  Will I step up my efforts at what I believe in my heart this world needs more than anything else, as the following tweet from Ed Stetzer, President of Lifeway Research reminded me Sunday morning?

EdStetzerTweet

What will I do different as a result of this verdict?  What will you do?  If all we plan is to spout our opinions and yell down those with whom we disagree, then we have missed the critical teachable moment in the midst of a tragedy.  We will miss the great opportunity to at least partly redeem a broken situation.  We will miss the call to mold the future for the better.

I know we all have our opinions of guilt or innocence.  I have mine.  But opinions aren’t what the world needs right now.  We need thoughtful, purposeful, reasoned action that makes a difference for this and future generations.

So What Are You Going to Do About It?

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For some additional recommended reading related to the Zimmerman verdict, see:

image from bookboon.com

image from bookboon.com

I’m tired of so much of daily life and experience revolving around conflict.  It dominates a disproportionate share of the news and far too much of our personal and professional lives and experiences.

I’m tired of watching national newscasts only to see the latest iteration of countries fighting with one another, rogue administrations fighting against their own people, terrorists terrorizing, and political parties blindly towing the party line while casting blame for all the nation’s ills on another party.  I’m tired of so-called leaders who instigate more conflict and division rather than diplomatically lead a nation through troubled times.

I’m tired of local newscasts filled with the murder of the week, groups fighting for or against their pet causes and projects, and people unable to live in the same community and get along with one another.

I’m tired of people unable to have civil conversations about hugely important social matters impacting society.  I’m tired of seeing and hearing people yell their verbal missives at those with whom they disagree instead of attempting to understand the perspectives of others and have reasonable conversations with them.  I’m tired of the marches and protests regardless of whose side is putting on the show.

I’m tired of a worthless news media that selectively “reports” the news and slants the amount and details of coverage to reflect a bias instead of serving the public by thoroughly reporting the news in an unbiased manner.  I’m tired of their behavior contributing to the division that exists among the public.  I’m tired of so many news talk shows with everyone barking at the same time, trying to shout each other down instead of having a worthwhile conversation.

I’m tired of fighting the same old battles at work.  I’m tired of cumbersome processes that take years and an act of God to change because some silo cares more about protecting its little fiefdom than it does about what makes sense for efficiency, effectiveness and the good of the enterprise and its customers.  I’m tired of butting my head into the brick wall of roadblocks thrown up constantly by those who fancy themselves as more important than anyone but themselves believes them to be.  I’m tired of the conflict generated by people with no training or experience in some matters telling others who are trained and experienced how to do their jobs.  I’m tired of the interpersonal conflict that comes with people not following through on commitments, not taking initiative, and not doing their best when there are so many others working their back sides off to do things well.  I’m tired of grown adults acting like children in the workplace, all too eager to spawn conflict among their colleagues about matters completely unrelated to work.

I’m tired of the ongoing schedule conflicts due to far too many commitments, personal and professional.  I’m tired of the competing priorities and the constant need to choose between what is important and what is urgent.  I’m tired of the guilt that comes for what doesn’t get done regardless of what I choose to do.

I’m tired of how constant conflict makes me tired.  Were it not for the sanctuaries of my faith and family, I cannot imagine how pointless it would all seem.

Surely we can do better if we really want to, and if we try.

How We Spend Our DaysOccasionally a phrase jumps off a page (or, more likely, a computer or smartphone screen) and grabs me.  That happened the other day with a tweet, although I’ve forgotten who tweeted it.  What I recall was the insightful statement: “How we spend our days is how we spend our lives.”  Fortunately, I kept the link the tweet pointed to, which was this article – a review by Maria Popova of Annie Dillard’s book The Writing Life.  While the review takes a different path with that memorable phrase than I will take here, it makes the prospect of reading the book intriguing, especially since it is a book about writing.

As I ponder the title of this post, I am immediately convicted.  I imagine on the one hand that person I wish to be, that I perhaps already imagine myself to be – that person I would like to one day be remembered as.  Then, I look at how I spent my time today, and the two don’t necessarily look the same.  It is such a simple, obvious, yet profound truth that if the sum of my life is to be “X,” I don’t get there by filling my days with “Y.”

A few examples…

  • If I want to be highly educated, then I must learn something today.
  • If I want to lose weight, then I must consume fewer calories than I expend today.
  • If I want to be remembered as a good family man, then I must spend time with my family today.
  • If I want to accumulate wealth, then I must spend less than I make today.
  • If I want to be generous, then I must give something away today.
  • If I want to achieve specific long-term goals, then I must complete a small step in that direction today.
  • If I want to grow in my relationship with God, then I must spend time with Him and His Word today.
  • If I have a career path I want to follow, then I have to take a step along that path today.

You get the idea.

In considering this subject, I was reminded of a conversation I had with a married couple many years ago.  They were several years older than me.  My inclination is to respect my elders, yet when the conversation turned in this case to the subject of charitable giving, their reasoning seemed hollow and disingenuous to me, though not uncommon.  They were heavy into a multi-level marketing business, always driven by time spent building their network and attempting to accumulate wealth.  Their reasoning related to charitable giving went something like this: “We don’t give much to charity now because we’re concentrating on our business.  If we work hard now and really do well with our income, just think of how much we’ll be able to give later on.”

We haven’t lived in their city for 30 years and we weren’t close friends, so I can’t say for sure what happened to them.  My suspicion is that they are still operating under the same self-deception that somehow, someday they will be generous with their giving, while in reality they are probably still consumed with accumulating.  They will wake up one day and realize (hopefully) that their lives have not been examples of generosity because their days have not been examples of generosity.

I understand that early years of life and even adulthood are naturally somewhat different than later years.  We don’t live static, unchanging lives exemplifying our ideal existence for decades.  But neither should we delude ourselves into thinking that something is really important to us if it is not important to us enough today to do something about.

There are things I did not do today that I should have, especially if I claim such matters as important to who I am in this world.

What about you?  How do you need to spend your time today so that you can ultimately know that you have spent your life in the right way?

Whatever It TakesI want to take a moment to give some kudos to my bride of almost 34 years, Linda.  She is 3+ weeks following a knee-replacement surgery and less than two weeks away from her second one on May 9.  It has been a challenging journey for her from the effects of the pain meds after surgery to dealing with the rehab exercises and the difficulty doing everyday things that she would normally not think twice about.  But she is doing what it takes to improve daily and shows the determination to do what is best in the long run even when she may not feel like doing it.  I am extremely proud of her and the determination she shows daily.

All of us avoid pain, of course.  To go through daily exercise routines to the point of pain because you know it’s good for you takes a special person with an inner strength that not everyone has.  She has me help her with some of the exercises by pushing her leg to bend more than she can on her own for a second or two – something that feels incredibly weird for me when I know the outcome is her yelling at the point of pain.  She thinks I enjoy it in some evil way, but I don’t.  Still, I’ll gladly do whatever she wants and needs if it helps.

We’ve all heard the phrase “no pain…no gain” as a motivator to get us to stretch ourselves in exercise and attempts at fitness.  Many of us would much rather live by the motto of “no pain…no pain” instead.

There are moments when Linda is a bit apprehensive or weepy about going through all of this again in two weeks with the other knee.  I told her a couple of nights ago in one such moment not to think about two weeks from now, but about 6-8 weeks from now.  What she is enduring for a couple of months is setting her up to be in a much better place for years to come regarding mobility compared to what she was experiencing prior to the surgeries.  She knows that and will successfully keep the long view in mind.

Each of us has challenges we face, goals to achieve, things that cost us some pain and discomfort – physical or otherwise – on the way to victory.  If we only concern ourselves with what is expedient and pleasurable in the moment, we’ll never cross those long-term finish lines.

On a related note, I have a number of friends and work colleagues who ran the Kentucky Derby Festival Mini-Marathon today in Louisville (a half marathon of 13.1 miles), some for the first time.  They didn’t cross that finish line only because of what they did today, but because of what they’ve done for weeks, months and years leading up to today.  They willingly endured some self-inflicted pain prior to today so that today they could feel the jubilation of individual victory.  I applaud them all.  I’ve done that half-marathon a few times myself and I know how satisfying it is to complete it.

To coworkers who go the extra mile to get things done and to do them well, to friends and family who choose to live life with determination and fortitude, and especially to Linda who is as tough as anyone I know, thank you for your attitude, your sacrificial efforts and example, and for inspiring me daily to do what it takes.