Kindness for April

Yesterday was one of my least favorite holidays of the year: April Fool’s Day. I have no problem with having fun in life and having fun with each other, but to play pranks on others and tell half truths or lies to people is just cruel on top of all that the world throws at you. I did hear one person’s rules on it for their kid that I could almost get behind and that was there could be no permanent damage, personal injury or cruelty in any of their pranks. That almost makes it OK but I’m still not a fan.

The past few days in my Lent and other devotionals there’s been a lot of talk of the story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15). Luke 15 also shares the story of a lost coin and a lost sheep. These devotionals reminded me of how much we can lose in life, from the seemingly small to the life-altering and how that loss affects each of us differently. Some may not have felt so strongly about a lost coin or sheep as the people in Luke 15 did, but to these people those individual coins and sheep were important.

We can screw up our lives on our own without help from anyone else. We rely on the honesty, predictability, and reliability of other people and businesses to run our lives as easily and peacefully as possible and with the least amount of stress. So when we’re faced with something like April Fool’s that gives the not-so-nice people of the world leave to play jokes (regardless of how many ‘just kidding’s’ that are said or sent with the joke), it almost makes me want to stay in bed all day and pretend the world doesn’t exist.

Unfortunately, I think we’re a lot closer to getting rid of the time change than we are of April Fool’s Day (I’d like to get rid of both). So my suggestion to help with the darkness, bad energy and bad karma that was added to the world yesterday, is that we all share a little more kindness and compassion with the world for the rest of the week. We should always have it in our minds and actions to be helpful and considerate to others, but with how yesterday may have gone for some people I think it’s more important than ever.

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Reality Reflection: Be Kind

In just a few hours it becomes National Random Acts of Kindness Day.  It’s an important day for many reasons, but most of all because it reminds us to be kind.  We need to talk about the bad stuff that happens so that we’re aware of it and can hopefully work on changing/fixing it in the future, but dealing with the bad stuff (robberies, murder, hate crimes etc.) will only fix a small portion of the issues in the world, whereas working on spreading kindness can do much more.

I know we dedicate days to lots of different and specific things, Monday is President’s Day, we just had Valentine’s Day, there’s Memorial Day and Pizza Day, but by the very name “National Random Acts of Kindness Day,” this event encourages us to do something many of us do well, and that’s be random.

Being kind doesn’t have to happen on a schedule, and it shouldn’t. I mean you can plan to do 5 acts of kindness every day, but with all that goes on in our lives it’s hard to really plan out specifically what kind things you’ll do. It’s great if you can commit to helping people in 5 different ways each day, the world would greatly benefit if we all chose to be kind with the same commitment that most check their social streams.

But if we’re honest, part of the magic of being kind is the randomness of it, and doing what needs to be done when the situation arises, which isn’t something you can really plan.  Being consistently kind hearted is a great way to live, but not how most people live, which is why those little moments of empathy, of listening, of opening doors, of getting items off the top shelf, of watching out for others, of letting others know you care are so important and carry such impact.

So especially this Sunday, I would encourage you to live with kindness at the front of your mind.  See what impact it makes on your life and the lives of those around you when you choose to be kind first and foremost.

A Sweet Touch of Kindness

We’re nearing the end of Lent with the arrival of the Easter holidays starting on Sunday with Palm Sunday, and today we were able to celebrate the arrival of spring. Some of us have a spiritual practice of giving something up for Lent, but spring is known for the arrival of new things and Easter is really about a fresh (forever) start. So today I thought we’d talk about something you can start fresh this spring, something that’s Kingdom inspired, as shared in Proverbs 16:24:

“Kind words are like honey, sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.”

Kind words are one of the least expensive but sometimes most challenging things we can do. It’s easy to keep our mouths closed and a little too easy to pass on gossip or say something that’s more disparaging than constructive criticism. However, with a little practice I believe we can make kind words not only something that’s sweet, but easy going down too. I think the best place to start is with whatever is easy for you. If it’s easy for you to thank the cashiers, start with consistently thanking them. If it’s easy for you to send a nice, meaningful thought to your partner each day, start with that. If it’s to offer kind words to pets that have been severely neglected or abused by volunteering at animal shelters, start with that. Find something kind that feels good to you and you feel comfortable doing and do it every day, multiple times a day.

As anyone who has tried to lose weight or get in shape knows, one meal or one workout doesn’t an ultimate goal reach. You have to be consistently working on those meals and workouts and starting with small steps and growing to bigger ones if you want to get to your target weight or activity level. The more you’re kind in ways that are practical, normal and easy for you, the easier it will be to branch out into other ways of being kind and saying kind things to others.

What kindness practice will you start today?

Faith and Imperfections

Last month we spent a lot of time talking about relationships and this month one of the things we’ll be talking about is freedom. As I was thinking about these two topics I read these words:

“We’re all broken in one way or another. So let’s be kind” Mary Carver

People of faith are often seen as perfect. Maybe we seem that way because we make people think that, or because we talk about being forgiven and freed all the time. But the fact is just because we’re people of faith, it doesn’t make us perfect. We still need other people, we still have faults and failures, we still screw up and hurt others. Even the people who are living a life of faith that God is proud of (the people who everyone looks up to because of how spiritual and well-behaved they are) aren’t perfect and struggle with the same human experience and emotions that the rest of us do.

People who are “good” are important because they show the rest of us how to live in a way that honors God and reminds us that it is possible and that it isn’t something reserved for people in the Bible or people with an official church title. For those of us who aren’t quite so perfect, it’s not easy to show both sides of this to the world, because we want to be a good reflection on God. But being truthful about the struggles we face on a daily basis or about the challenges God has brought us through not only help those who don’t share our faith better identify with us, it’s a reminder that we’re still people in need of God.

Over and over throughout the Bible there are examples of Jesus and other people of faith who choose to show love and compassion in the face of sin and suffering. Jesus made a point throughout His ministry to show love to those who were suffering or fallen and knew they needed help, but when faced with those who thought they were without reproach or had lost sight of what their faith was supposed to be all about, He didn’t show interest or have mercy (He even lost His temper a time or two).

No one really wants to admit how flawed they are or how badly they screw up, but it’s only in those moments that we can really take account of where our life is and what changes need to be made going forward. It’s also in those moments that we’re given the ability to reach out to others for their support and encouragement. Are you honest with yourself about how broken you are? If so what are you doing about it? And what happens when someone who feels broken comes to you for support?  Are you there for them to support them or just judge them?

This week I encourage you to choose kindness and support, both for others and yourself, when faced with failures and struggles.   Choose to be the person who loves and doesn’t condemn, and the person who’s honest about the help they need.

Doing the Right Thing

Last week in my weekly devotional I talked about the topic of guilt.  Do you feel guilty often?  I think most of us are human enough that we do feel guilt from time to time and feel bad about the things we’ve done or choices we’ve made. We should feel guilty about sins we commit and people we hurt because it means that God is working in us, and we recognize when we do things we shouldn’t.  Today I wasn’t planning on talking about guilt, but about doing the right thing.

Do you sometimes choose to do the right thing because you know it will be the easy thing?  That rather than maybe getting caught for cutting corners or having to redo things you just do the right thing the first time? I know I do.   I like shortcuts as much as the next person, but sometimes those shortcuts aren’t so short and it’s just easier to do the right thing the first time.

What about doing the right thing because it feels good? What about treating others with respect because that’s how you want to be treated? What about doing things for the right reason period?  What about doing the right thing because God says to in the Bible?  This week I challenge you to do the right thing.  Treat others with respect, go the extra mile to do things right, do things right the first time, say ‘thank you’ and ‘bless you’ often and choose to make a difference doing right not only because it will feel good, but because it’s what God calls His people to do.

“So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.”  Acts 24:16

Let’s Encourage in 2015

Something I’ve always stressed in my business and writings is the importance of people. No, that hasn’t changed with the change of the calendar, in fact we’ll probably talk about it even more this year. While I haven’t revealed my theme for the year yet, this month we’ll be talking about being prepared. One of the best ways to deal with people is to be as prepared as possible for any and all possibilities and curve balls that could come your way. When you’ve taken the time to study language and facial expressions and learned how people generally are wired you’re immediately given a step up from anyone else who goes into a situation blind. In fact, one of the quickest ways to fail a job interview is to go into the job knowing absolutely nothing about the business that you’re applying at, and one of the quickest ways to hurt a friend or your partner is to intentionally check out of the conversation because it doesn’t interest you only to be called to the carpet later for an update or help with the issue and have no clue what they’re talking about.

One thing that I know many people have been avoiding accepting or understanding for a long time is that people care. People care if you listen to them, they care if you show up, they care if you’re OK, they care about the product or service you’re offering or the job you do. It hurts when people care because it means that we can (and probably will at some point in time) let them down; it hurts to care for the same reasons. We’ve been hurt and let down before, so we’ve learned to build walls to keep people at a distance. But I’ve seen lots of evidence that people are starting to realize that that’s not the way to live. Living in a box isolated from emotion, passion, fulfillment and purpose is just not that satisfying. So we’re starting to care again, starting to get emotionally invested, and starting to put our necks out just a little bit.

If you’re as on board with this as I am, there’s a simple way that you can build those relationships without sticking your neck too far: encourage someone. It’s when you say thank you and recognize them for doing something helpful, when you take the time to compliment them, when you take the time to really listen and just share a few words in support from your heart. It’s not painful to share a few words or minutes to encourage someone, and it can make a positive impact on you and them.

Learning Kindness

“Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.”  Matthew 7:12

This verse is a challenging one for all of us.  Sure it’s easy to those who are nice to you, but it’s not so easy to be kind to those who are rude to you.  It is a huge opportunity for those of us who are Christians or people of faith to show people what it really means to have spiritual beliefs, and not perpetuate the sad truths that have made their way through society in the past that have gotten so many people labeled as hypocrites.  The unfortunate thing in all this is we haven’t treated people as well as we could have.  We’ve judged them before we’ve known everything, and we’ve been less-than-shining examples of Jesus.

If we all treated others with respect and dignity simply because they were human beings like ourselves, can you imagine how much would change?  I’ve been seeing this change in business over the past few years.  It’s slow but it’s definitely developing a stronger presence. I’ve seen fewer scam businesses be successful, more action taken against them and more bad leaders sent packing.  I’ve also seen the awareness growing that we can’t be isolated but need physical contact and connection with other people.

No, people aren’t perfect. I’m not, and I’ll guess that you probably have a fault or two.  That’s OK, I don’t mind that we’re not perfect.  I appreciate being able to extend forgiveness and grace, and receiving it as well.  I also appreciate being able to learn from our mistakes, wouldn’t life be boring if we got it right the first time?

One final thing to consider: this verse in Matthew doesn’t assume or state that others will immediately respond in kind.  In our world kindness needs to be learned.  We don’t all accept that others are kind, we’re often suspicious of the kindness that others extend to us.  This week do your best to treat others with respect in ways that you want to be treated.  Over time you’ll see people’s attitudes and actions towards you changing for the better.