Actions Are More Important Than Feelings - May 24, 2019
Good deeds can start in your head, as well as in your heart. However, if they stay in either your heart or your head, and don't lead further to an action, they don't really exist. Feeling sad or caring or loving or having sympathy—they don't really count as bona fide caring, compared to trying to do something.
I mentioned a few weeks ago, in my comments here, that I put together a list of twelve secret behaviors several years ago. They are behaviors you can do, and which, if you will conscientiously do them, will make a BIG difference in the world around you. So, the second one on my list is this: Actions are more important than care and kind feelings.
Some people have said to me, “Well, you know, I don't really feel much, and I don't have many emotional responses to people’s distress.”
Well, that that's an honest, legitimate condition that some people have more than others, but feelings are not a necessary ingredient to doing something good. For example, if you see somebody's bleeding, you know that they need some help. You use your head. You can see it; you can observe it; and you can do something, regardless of how you feel about it.
So you don't have to feel for people, but you do have to act for people. If you go into a store, and there's a clerk and there's a line waiting for help, you probably have no feelings about the clerk. It’s just a person up there, and you don't know that the clerk needs something. BUT . . . your brain can tell you that she is a human being, a young woman, probably a mother, and probably has kids at home. Your brain can say to you, "I'll bet a word of appreciation or encouragement will lift her spirits." You don’t have to feel for her—you just have to think about it, and decide to give her a gift of some sort.
You can do that! It doesn't take any special skill; it doesn't require any preparation; it doesn't take much time—it only takes a mental decision to do something kind for another person while you are out and about your business.
90 Seconds? . . . or More?? - May 10, 2019
The whole point of what I am going to tell you is summarized in the words of the title above. Let me explain what I mean.
I recently read words from a scientist (a neuroanatomist!) that explained how emotions trigger a physical response in our body. Our body is actually affected physically, very specifically, by emotions. But . . . she said that from the time the emotion triggers the chemical component that goes into the blood, within 90 seconds!, that chemical component has entirely dissipated . . . and the automatic response is over.
Isn’t that interesting? It can be over and done with in only 90 seconds??
Here’s how it typically goes: something caused me to feel angry; I couldn’t help it. That was the way I automatically reacted to what happened. I could feel it in my body. My heart was beating faster; I felt my blood pressure was probably higher; I was indeed angry.
But, what this scientist said was that those physical symptoms were over and done within 90 seconds. I confess that usually I feel angry for longer than that. So why would this be?
The answer is that, for some reason, I have chosen to hang on to those feelings. I have made the choice to continue feeling angry. I am allowing my brain to keep telling the story over and over again about the incident that had upset me.
So the important issue here is about the choice I made. And about the choice I make each time a strong emotion affects my body.
And I know the answer to my question. If the body is done with it in 90 seconds, I want my mind to be done with it as well. If I let it go, I am going to be more pleasant to be around; I am going to be able to better show care and kindness to others; I am going to feel better in general; I will be a healthier person.
If I let it go.
A Secret Behavior - April 26, 2019
A number of years ago I put together a list of twelve secret behaviors and we printed up some pamphlets that talked about each of them. I don't know why I decided to say they were a 'secret', because there is nothing sacred about them. They are behaviors you can do, and which, if you will conscientiously do them, will make a BIG difference in the world around you. (Maybe the secret is that things so obvious on this list need to be pointed out more strongly.)
The first one on the list was to remind you to SMILE. Yes, I know you smile frequently, but do you smile intentionally? Do you smile at someone when you might not normally do it?
Do you know that they have found that if somone's frown is removed by getting botox injections, they end up feeling better? Really! When their mouth can’t frown anymore, it makes a chemical difference in their body. They also found that smiling raises your immunity level.
This is to say nothing about what it does for the persons to whom you give that smile. You will feel better and others feel better when you give them that smile. My SECRET (I'll use that word again) is that it takes a decision to smile in many circumstances. Some people are born with the inclination to smile easily; some people are genetically equipped to be easy smilers. But . . . if you aren’t a natural smiler, you can do still do it.
We must see this as an assignment in life, not just something nice to do, now and then. This is your task. That’s our job, and everybody can do it.
Smile. Mother Teresa said a smile is the beginning of peace. That’s how big a smile is.
Just Walk With Me - April 12, 2019
I have a problem. I want to tell you about it.
No, I really don't. I'd rather keep it to myself; handle it alone.
I do think it would be good for me to share it with you, though I don't want to because I'm afraid of what you'll say, or how you'll act.
I'm afraid You might feel sorry for me in a way that makes me feel pathetic. Like I'm some "poor thing".
I'm afraid you will try to cheer me up. That you will give me words or text or prayers that tell me in a subtle way to stop feeling bad. If you do that, I'll feel worse (but hide it behind my obedient, cheerful smile). I'll feel you don't understand. I'll feel you are making light of my problem (as if it can be brushed away with some brief words of cheer).
I'm afraid you'll give me an answer. That this problem I've been wrestling with for some time now, and about which I have thought endless thoughts, will be belittled.
You can answer in a half-minute what I've struggled with for weeks?
I'm afraid you might ignore my problem; talk quickly about other things, tell me of your own.
I'm afraid, too, you might see me as being stronger than I am. Not needing you to listen and care. (It's true, I can get along, but I shouldn't).
What I'd really like is, if you would "just walk with me". Listen as I begin in some blundering, clumsy way to break through my fearfulness of being exposed as weak.
Hold my hand and pull me gently as I falter and begin to draw back. Say a word, make a motion, or a sound that says, "I'm with you." If you've been where I am, tell me how you felt in a way that I can know you're trying to walk with me - Not change me.
But I'm afraid...
PLEASE just walk with me. All those other things seem so much brighter and sharper, smarter, and expert. But what really takes love is to "Just Walk With Me."
The Lord is My Shepherd, I shall not want...Psalm 23.
Yes, even when I walk through the valley, You're with me (walking with Me)."
Teachable Moments - March 29, 2019
The kitty lay dead in the street when we woke up. Shocked and saddened, we prepared a burial spot in the backyard. Gently and reverently, we gave thanks for the joy she had brought to our lives, then covered her tiny body. No one spoke of looking for another to take her place. Everyone took the loss seriously and somberly. Then it was over.
Our family scattered in a half-dozen directions, on to other things — fun, routine chores, sports, reading — life went on. Grief reentered from time to time, appearing more in one member of the family than in another, perhaps, but no visible interruption marked this loss.
I've been pondering how this situation, which is so common to all of us, is such a teachable moment. When a child is knocked down or bruised by loss or disappointment, the experience presents us with a prime teaching opportunity. Unfortunately, we all too easily miss our chance.
For example, we are tempted to quickly brush aside the death of our child’s pet as unimportant (because, as an experienced adult, we know that it matters little in the scheme of life.) Or we may resolve the matter too quickly by getting another pet to replace the one we lost. (You know why we do that, right? We are trying to 'fix' the situation and to cheer up the family.)
The lesson to be learned, however, is that neither of these two approaches strengthens our children or instills in them a long-range outlook that stands ready to help them in the future. Parents and teachers who respect and affirm the distress of their children listen to their feelings. They avoid quick fixes and superficial reassurances. They set a positive table for growth.
Children who are properly equipped to deal with pain discover, without realizing it, that they can face it head-on, survive it, and continue happily on with life. This happens because they have not been rescued, sheltered, or belittled; their pain has been taken with appropriate seriousness — not too much, and not too little. They’re treated as being strong enough to handle it.
Christian parents may enrich their own empathy by gently assuring their children that the Lord Jesus loves them and therefore hurts for them, too, in this, a major childhood loss. However, (another caution) we need to conscientiously avoid any suggestion that “God took the kitty.” That is crucial to the teaching here. Such a fatalistic approach lays the groundwork for some very dangerous theology.
Mature compassion allows discomfort. When we show our children that we are confident that they can face up to their pain, then we’re helping them to deal with it. We set the stage for a lifetime of dealing with tough situations head-on, rather than allowing them to deny or avoid them. Fundamental to this approach is the parent’s conviction that God has created in humankind, even children, the capacity to heal and grow stronger by facing up to hard times and by going through them.
In summary, then, may I remind you of couple of themes that you hear from me a lot.
Listen to feelings: your perspective as an adult is quite different from that of your children. Allow them to have their natural feelings.
Don't try to fix the situation: you can't undo to loss; you can't remove the pain, you can't change the circumstances. Instead, accept what has happened and deal with it in a loving way.
Reflecting on Rejuvenation - March 15, 2019
I am older than I've ever been. In fact, I've never been this age before! So, I've been thinking that we begin to get older actually before we are born. I remember that aging became an issue at age sixteen, when I longed for a driver's license, and again when I wanted a glass of wine in a restaurant.
But I've also been thinking that, while our bodies grow weightier, our friendships also enlarge, deepen, and even sometimes simplify. To simplify means to be healed, encouraged, satisfied by a smile, a pat on the back, a hug, or a postcard in the U.S. Mail.
There is a book on our mantel right now entitled "Ninety Percent of Helping is Just Showing Up". Perhaps you have heard of it. That title tells us how little it takes to be spiritually rejuvenated. Rejuvenation is the process of making someone, or something, young again. So spiritual rejuvenation means to be once again energetically active and enthusiastic.
It can start with a personal decision to be fresh, alert, physically alive. But then it depends on opening our eyes, ears and our heart to the goodness of those round us. The benefits of life itself, the wonders of creation and even human invention and performance are spiritual modifiers.
Even church attendance is a potent help. The music, the atmosphere, the message — all contribute to deepening and rejuvenation-which, surprisingly, is a synonym for being born again.
Rejuvenation is a way of life. It includes staying active, valuing your people, nourishing your mind and spirit. Remember the old saying 'prayer changes things'. Consistent, thoughtful prayer also changes those who exert themselves in that direction.
There are countless benefits to growing older, but staying young is always possible. You might take a few moments right now to consider where you are in this regard. Are you getting older? Are you doing things to stay young? Let's talk about that.
Reach Out and Touch Someone - March 1, 2019
Several years ago, many of you saw the powerful movie, The Passion of Christ. What a comfort-shattering experience that was!! The message of that movie calls us to suffer, too. It insists that we, too, give our lives for others. We are called to leave our comfort zones and dare to get hurt, if necessary, while trying to bring healing to others.
I frequently make the statement that we must die for others, but perhaps I need to explain more carefully what I mean by that. I don't mean that you literally have to 'die'. Rather, I consider that the feelings you have when you do something that is WAAAY out of your comfort zone—that is a form of dying to yourself. We quite naturally prefer to protect ourselves from hurt, discomfort, risk by staying with where we are familiar and comfortable. We don't like to move out of our comfort zones, but when we do, in the name of Jesus, we are sharing his love. (And that was WHY he died . . . to share his love.) So, whenever I walk across the room, (introvert that I may be) and welcome a stranger, (as ineptly as I may do it) I am dying for her. And in dying for her, I am resuscitating her, raising her a little, from the dead.
I beg you to take total ownership of every room you sit in, or enter.
I beg you to take leadership in noticing who is there and intentionally approaching whoever might possibly be alone.
I implore you to endeavor (in some faulty, trembling, inarticulate way, if necessary) to include them and bring them IN.
JUST BE THERE!! Though we must think of every human being as ‘the walking wounded’, our task is not to fix them. Fixing is underway when we greet the stranger, or lift the spirits of anyone. With total trust, we leave the deliberate fixing to God, who CAN fix their hurts.
Friendliness is Not a Feeling - February 1, 2019
When you meet someone, or merely pass a person on the sidewalk, a friendly greeting is called for-most of the time.
You do not have to know him, or her, to justify a word of connection. You just need to do it; clearly, warmly, and, most of the time, briefly. Or quickly. Delivering such gems (that is what a greeting is), is like being a Medicine Man.
Friendliness is not simply a feeling—it is, more importantly, an ACTION. Your perception of feeling friendly towards a a person does nothing for him or her. But the action you take, or the word that you say, will indeed have an effect on that person.
A kind word lifts the spirits of the recipient. Lifted spirits wash out the germs of pessimism, discouragement, depression, fear, sadness, and more. These troublesome sentiments weaken health, retard optimism and joy—which are nutrients for health.
Friendliness is easy! Squeezing someone's elbow, a pat on the back, a greeting, a handshake can do the job. It is so easy that no one can (or should) excuse themselves from this activity. Among other things, it is the opportunity to bring healing to another and to oneself. A friendly word, a greeting, or a gentle touch is like medicine. It heals—discouragement, sadness, fear, loneliness and a lot more.
It is more important to be person-oriented than to be preoccupied with a particular task at hand: grocery shopping, driving the car, taking care of your hunger pangs, or a finding a parking place. Turning our spirit towards people is what Jesus was talking about when He said that we should "love one another".
Friendliness is LOVE. It is a reasonable and possible form of love. The word ‘love’ is an enormously important theme, but it helps to show some of the forms that love can take—like friendliness. ‘Friendliness’ is love!
A greeting, a smile, a touch, a phone call, even a honk of your car horn are forms of friendliness. They warm hearts, trigger smiles, heal a headache, and enhance another's health.
Jesus calls us to "love one another". Let's start today with a quadruple dose of friendliness.
The Role of Enthusiasm - January 18, 2019
I love that word enTHUSiasm. As you may know, the 'thus' in the middle comes from the Greek word Theos. Theos means 'God' in the Greek language. It is the first part of the word Theology, which means God Knowledge — God-ology.
So enTHUSiasm really means to have God energy, or God inside; it means that you are a God-driven, God-centered person. Add enthusiasm to “You are the light of the world” and we have a mighty important presence.
I was told a few days ago about a women’s Bible Study to which a stranger showed up and took a seat. The meeting continued on dealing with its agenda and then adjourned. Every one left . . . well, nearly everyone left. These Christians who understood their role as 'lights in the world' should have seen to it that this new stranger had thirty people around her — welcoming her. Instead . . . there was one.
Okay, that is all it takes. Blessings indeed on the one. BUT, there should have been thirty concerned women, tripping over each other to get to her side. Instead of only the one.
My dear friends, YOU must take ownership of this challenge to make the world a better place, to care about strangers, to reach out into uncomfortable places where you’d rather not be. You are a light.
Do not hide your light under a basket. Let it shine. Reach out to people. Notice people. Notice the needs of people, even if they don't speak out about them. If each of you is the 'one' in the incident above, then there will be thirty as well.
A New List of Kindness Suggestions - January 4, 2019
Readers of my books and my blog postings are all familiar with my message that we can offer acts of kindness daily as we go about our daily lives. We can lift the spirits of those around us; we can show Jesus' love; we can bring joy to others, simply by taking an extra moment to be kind.
When I offer specific actions and ideas on what actions we can take, I get tremendous feedback on the helpfulness of such lists. So, in that spirit, here are some thoughts:
Tweet or Facebook message a genuine compliment to three people right now.
Bring doughnuts (or a healthy treat, like cut-up fruit) to work.
While you’re out, compliment a parent on how well-behaved their child is.
Cook a meal or do a load of laundry for a friend who just had a baby or is going through a difficult time.
If you walk by a car with an expired parking meter, put a quarter in it.
Put your phone away.
Don’t interrupt when someone else is speaking. (Surprisingly few people master this.)
Let someone into your lane. They’re probably in a rush just like you.
We were speeding along in the car pool lane when I noticed a motorcycle coming up behind us. I moved a little over to the left to allow him to pass more comfortably. As he passed he raised the three fingers on his left hand, as he held on to the handle bars. It was a signal of appreciation. It was love! That small gesture lifted my spirits for the next half hour or more. He might have been an ex-convict, or a bum of some kind. He might have been a godless atheist. Nevertheless, he has the love of God inside him and he sprinkled a little of that love on us as he passed.
That is how easy it is to be an instrument of the Lord Jesus. And a person can be that even if he doesn't know it. We do want him to know, but he may not be open to that truth for a while.
But he is far more than he thinks he is.
A sign on the lawn at a drug rehab center said, 'Keep off the Grass.'
©2019 Care and Kindness Ministries.