It isn’t hard to be nice

“It isn’t hard to be nice”. A phrase first used by our son and one that we spoke regularly on the vacation we took a couple of months ago. Somewhere, somehow, our society has lost the ability to treat each other like human beings and simply be nice to each other. Everyone now has a label and it seems that no matter where you find yourself, someone is classifying you into a group. At its worst, “you’re either one of us or you’re one of them”. Usually that type of statement is followed up by a “at its best” statement but in this case, there is no best. Generally, we seem to have lost our compassion for each other, we lost our empathy for those in need and we’ve become focused on “I’ve got mine” or “me first!” in societies all around the world.

To our son’s point, it isn’t hard to be nice. A smile when we greet, picking up something that a stranger dropped or not treating people in the service industry like our enslaved servants, is a great place to begin. I’m pretty rebellious by nature and the last thing I want to do is to simply give way when someone is trying to push ahead in a line or a crowd – “how will they learn if people just cave-in” is what I find myself thinking. There is a difference between being nice and being a pushover. I would love to have everyone live in harmony and follow general precepts of being a member of a civilized society. Since that isn’t the case, I pray instead. The bottom line here is to ask yourself, “how do I behave?”. Examine your behaviors, attitudes, beliefs and actions; how hard is it to be nice?

16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.” Romans 12:16-19

St. Paul is remining us to be nice to each other; pretty straightforward – “Live in harmony with one another”. Nowhere in the bible does it tell us take care of ourselves first and then worry about others. St. Paul also reminds us not to take revenge but to leave that to God, it simply isn’t our place. These words of Paul to the Romans are very instructive for our lives today. They aren’t the words or parables of Jesus that someone has interpreted to mean something, they are the God inspired words spoken through an ordinary man to ordinary people – no spin here!

We are reminded to stand up for ourselves, “If it is possible…”, live at peace. We aren’t being told to cave in or let people push us around, but we are being reminded not to take revenge against those who treat us that way. “Live in harmony, do not be conceited, do what is right, live in peace, do not take revenge”; all pretty simple ways that, in my mind, summarize how to be nice. It isn’t hard if you practice being in the moment and focus your attention outward and away from yourself. After all that I’ve read and experienced, this life is way more about others than it is ourselves.

Dr Martin Luther King Jr

Today, the United States recognizes Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. It wasn’t until I started studying his work that I realized he did more than just his famous, “I Have a Dream Speech.” One of the awesome benefits of being an elected official is that you are exposed to a wide range of experiences and information. Each year, various groups in our West Valley celebrate MLK Day with some type of program and they invite their elected officials. Several years ago one group printed this from a sermon by Dr. King on August 11, 1957:

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘what are you doing for others?’ An individual has not begun until he can rise above the narrow horizons of his particular individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity. Every person must decide at some point, whether they will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”

We have all benefited from the deeds and sacrifices of those before us. They left a mark for us and now it is our responsibility to make contributions for the greater good. The freedoms we enjoy, the privileges we have as free citizens have all come at a cost to someone. Have you ever thought about the legacy that you will leave? We might not be in the national spotlight but we can always make a difference right where we are.

“A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed” – Proverbs 11:25

God has given us all great talents, not for our own benefit but for the benefit of others. God never wanted us to be selfish or alone; He wanted us in fellowship with each other. If we have talents, God has given us enough to share. If you Google “Spiritual Gifts” you will find a number of resources to help you determine what gifts you have and how you can use them.

Once you know how God has gifted you, you can start sharing them with others. Living the example of Jesus is pleasing to God and will make a difference in someone’s life. Sure, a difference for one person might not seem like a big deal but what if that person goes on to make a difference for 1000 people and then one of them goes on to make a difference in millions. Like dropping a rock in the water, the single act can send waves that are immeasurable.

 

Reflections of the Heart

There is an old management saying, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” What is in your heart will reflect on your leadership style. If you are caring for your people, deflecting stress from all angles, sincerely working with them so they can: achieve more, learn more and, reach their goals; then your heart is in the right place. Do you say, “I want to develop my team so that they can take my place” but you find that you are too busy to spend time with them in one on one career coaching?

I’ve been studying the subject of performance management for years. There has been a recent push to eliminate the annual performance review and replace it with regularly scheduled coaching sessions so that employees know how they are doing on a more frequent basis. As the workforce changes, so do the supervisors and leaders. The challenge this puts on a leader is that if they are required to interact with their people more frequently, it might just expose what is truly on their heart. If a leader really only cares about his numbers, his department’s goals or his promotion, it will all be revealed in these regular interactions. So, if you genuinely want people to be successful, you must ensure that your words and actions match. It takes far more time to recruit, train and develop new employees than it does to coach them and help them be successful. In the end, these efforts will reflect positively on everyone.

“As water reflects our face, so a man’s heart reflects the man.” Proverbs 27:19

This verse is about our hearts as Christians. What is on your heart? Do you attend church weekly and sing the songs but go out on Monday and terrorize your workplace by showing no compassion for others or “steal time” by putting in less than a full day so that you can “get what is coming to you”? God knows what is your heart! Putting God in His rightful place on your heart may take time and it won’t be easy, but God is understanding and has compassion as you work toward it.

For many of us, putting God first is a hard transition. As humans, tend to be so self-centered or consumed by the needs of this world that we often consider God’s word as an afterthought. Perhaps it is one of those things that you’ll squeeze in if there is time. Try to introduce God into your decision-making at work or when you reflect on a decision that you made. It may feel uncomfortable at first but that will go away. Remember the love that God has shown us and be extra forgiving when someone really disappoints you. Daily devotional reading will help you understand the depth of God’s grace and love for you. As God fills your heart, that will be reflected outward in how you treat others. You’ll be more understanding, have compassion and show forgiveness. Think about what your reflection looks like today and ask, is this what I really want to show to others?

Hard Pressed but Not Destroyed

When our son decided to get a tattoo, my only request was that it be something meaningful to him. He had designed his own symbol that represents – be positive and keep moving forward, period! Two bent lines and a dot in the center (the period). When he looked up similar symbols he found that it is almost identical to the Viking symbol for create your own destiny. It was very meaningful to him and he had the two lines and a dot placed on the underside of his left wrist. I often think about the emotion that created the symbol for him and thought back to drive that I had at his age – oh, to be young again!

The verse today describes how most of us feel on a regular basis – hard pressed. Since we just started not only a new year but new decade, I’d suggest that we all should focus on the opportunities of the new beginning and not dwell on the past. Our son had the right idea – be positive and look forward in all things. He’s obviously much smarter than I ever give him credit for. So ask yourself, are you looking forward to what is possible or are you looking behind at what could have been? As they say, “out of the mouths of babes”, come great advice from someone who is choosing to see the rest of his life with great optimism. Many of us may not be young but we can all look to the new year with a positive view.

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” 2 Corinthians 4:8

My guess is that this verse describes most of our lives – hard pressed, perplexed, persecuted and struck down. We are however, not crushed, not in despair, not abandoned and not destroyed and we have God to thank for that. Life can be hard and challenging but God is right next to us, helping navigate the troubles of our lives. I can’t imagine if I let all of the negative things that happen in my life gain the advantage, how miserable I would be. I’m not always the most positive person but I rarely let take it control of me. God is where my strength comes form.

God is in control of our lives and He has a plan for us. While we can’t create our own destiny, we do have the ability to influence the things that affect that plan. We can choose to ignore God’s plan or we can choose to follow it. Our son’s tattoo is really a symbol of what God’s wants for us – stay positive and keep moving forward. We will not be destroyed by this life or by the sin of our lives. God sent us a Savior to make sure that we would be close to Him; forgiven of all sin and innocent in His eyes. This is enough reason to keep moving forward and to stay positive.