Your Words and Actions Matter

Today, I had a conversation with a stranger that made me smile and reminded me that our words and how we say them can have a powerful impact on others. The stranger was a home insurance agent that I had called to make some updates to my policy. This person was nothing but gracious the entire call and left me in giggles as he joked about me being the age of his children and how people (like us) born in February are amazing.

call center 2
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As he made changes to my policy, his computer system froze up and I could sense a tinge of anxiety in his voice as he tried not to keep me waiting. My mind immediately jumped to my first university job as a help desk technician at a call center where I would help students and faculty to set up their phone and internet services (back when it was dial-up internet!). I still remember the people who were patient on the phone as I tried to navigate my computer system (as well as those who shouted  impatiently “let me speak to your supervisor immediately!”).

As the agent waited for his computer to come back online, he thanked me for my patience and talked about his passion for coaching hockey. He also spoke with great enthusiasm about his career as an insurance agent for the last 30 years. When his computer system finally started working again, he gave me a discount for the delay and again thanked me profusely.

I thought about how this conversation could have gone differently. What if he had sounded bored talking to me? What if I had hung up on him in frustration? We both would have ended the call on a negative note. But instead, I left the conversation reminded that our words and tone of voice really matter. It can make or break someone’s day. It can push someone over the edge or bring them back from the brink. It also reminded me that we can find joy and enthusiasm no matter what we are doing in life.

Tomorrow, take a moment to smile, chat or demonstrate a kind gesture towards those you come across. You never know what that person is going through and what your words and actions may mean to them. Your kindness and enthusiasm will energize those around you!

 

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Crossing the Bridge of Forgiveness

Today marked the fourth week of our study on the “40 Days of Love“. This week’s topic tackled the challenging issue of demonstrating love through forgiveness. We have all experienced hurt in our lives in some shape or form and it can be so difficult to get past it, to forgive and move on. What does forgiveness entail?

As difficult as this can be to do, especially when we are going through hurt and disappointment, forgiveness means letting go of the desire to get even, responding with kindness and not keeping a record of that wrong. The hardest part about forgiveness is that we are called to keep on forgiving even when the offense is repeated!

Forgiving is NOT minimizing the seriousness of an offense. In choosing to forgive someone of a wrong, we are not saying that what they did was of no consequence or was justified. The pain is real and it’s important that this is acknowledged. Once we have forgiven a person, what’s next? Candid communication, willingness to change negative behaviors and time are needed to rebuild and regain the trust of the person who has been hurt.

I am learning that forgiveness is a decision. We decide to move past the hurt and avoid falling into the trap of resentment and bitterness. In looking through the lens of forgiveness, we actually begin to see the hurt that the other person is going through. When people lash out or hurt us, they are often going through something difficult themselves, which gets taken out on others. Part of the healing between both parties is acknowledging the hurt on both sides, letting it go and moving towards reconciliation. This can be very difficult to do in some situations, but vital to the healing process.

Why forgive? Aside from the release and freedom it gives our souls, it shows a humility that we too are imperfect and need forgiveness.

Week 4 Challenge: Is there someone who needs your forgiveness? Try to work towards letting go of any resentment or bitterness towards that person.

“Love…keeps no record of wrongs” 1 Cor. 13: 5

“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you…” Luke 6:27-28

“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another…” Col. 3:13

 

 

Love in Action…How to Become a Kinder Person

Today started off the second week on the series ‘40 Days of Love‘ and it challenged us even more to live a life of love towards other people. Sometimes fear limits our ability to extend love and kindness. How will my actions be perceived by the other person? What if I get hurt? What if this affects my reputation? What if this delays my personal goals? What if this interrupts my plans?

These are valid fears and I have struggled with these at different points in my life. My hope is that we can get to a point where it becomes less about us and our comfort but more about other people. Difficult but achievable!

The lesson gave us 3 take home points to try and put into practice:

  • Sensitivity: How sensitive are we to the needs of those around us? Do we open our eyes and really observe what is going on with people around us? How is your neighbor, colleague, spouse, child, parent, classmate doing?
  • Sympathy: Once we have identified a need, how willing are we to engage the person to find out more? How ready are we to listen wholeheartedly without being distracted?
  • Spontaneity: Once we know the whole story, how willing are we to get into action and do something about it? Are we ready to drop what we are doing? Are we willing to sacrifice and go through some inconvenience to help the other person?
Image courtesy of indiabright.com
Image courtesy of indiabright.com

The lesson also drew from the example of the Good Samaritan. It was really eye-opening to break down the story in detail:

“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead…a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.  He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ Luke 10.

What can we learn from this story?

  • The Samaritan saw the need, he sympathized, and he acted spontaneously. There was no procrastination.
  • He sacrificed of his time, money and even his own safety to take care of a stranger
  • He used whatever he had with him (wine and oil, possibly his own clothing as bandages) to attend to the wounds of the stranger. Sometimes we don’t think we have what it takes to help someone else but there is always something we can do, no matter how small.
  • He promised to follow up on the stranger at a later date. Follow-up is important as sometimes a person’s need is continuous and does not disappear in a day.

Week 2 Challenge: Identify a need that you can assist with in your community, work place or school. Again, the focus is not to expect something in return.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear” 1 John 4:18

A Fruit a Day…Demonstrating Kindness

No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted” Quote by Aesop.

Today’s study on the fruits of the Spirit looks at the virtue of kindness.

Merriam Webster Definitions and Synonyms of Kindness

  • an act of kind assistance 
  • the capacity for feeling for another’s unhappiness or misfortune
  • sympathetic concern for the well-being of others
  • courtesy, grace, mercy, bigheartedness, compassion, humanity, sympathy, charity

Definitions and Synonyms of Kindness from Lexicon and Concordance by E.W Bullinger

  • active beneficence in spite of ingratitude
  • benevolence, benignity, philanthropy

Greek word for Kindness

The ancient Greek word for kindness is chréstotés. It has the connotation of “meeting needs”. I find this really interesting because it means that kindness is not just being polite to someone but it is also meeting their need. When I tapped my husband’s brain for his interpretation of chréstotés, here was his thoughtful response, “It has the basic sense of excellent, useful, serviceable and adapted to a purpose; in other words, the shades of meaning for the Greek word ‘chréstotés’ involve practical and useful service, not just kindly feelings as we might think from the English word ‘kindness'”.

Favorite Verse on Kindness

  • Do not let kindness and truth leave you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart”. Proverbs 3:3

Final thoughts on Kindness

I usually think of kindness as generically being nice to someone else. But it goes much deeper than this. There is an element of empathy where we feel what the other person is going through. When we extend an act of kindness, we are connecting on a level that draws us into the world of the other person and this expresses the notion  “I understand”. It is not always possible to completely relate to what other people are going through but empathy and generosity are certainly facets of kindness.

The person who is receiving the act of kindness may not always be deserving or grateful. This can turn us off from wanting to help further. But kindness overlooks weaknesses in others and is gracious towards someone despite their flaws. More and more, I see God’s grace towards my own failings and I wonder where I would be if he did not extend his kindness and mercy towards me daily.

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