Thursday, February 20, 2020

Look at the Heart

The Lord doesn't see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7

First Impressions

I live in an agricultural area, so it’s not unusual to see people - men, in particular - driving a beat-up old truck, wearing old work clothes and sporting dirt under their fingernails. By looking at them, you’d assume they don’t have two dimes to rub together; but you’d be surprised because many of them have more money in the bank than most of us. And they’re not just rich in money. They are some of the most compassionate and giving people I’ve ever met.

Conversely, when I was in high school, I was in the same English class as the most aloof girl in the school. Her father was the president of a large, prestigious university and the whole family was practically royalty in our little town. Everyone wanted to be her friend, but she didn’t seem to have time for them. And why should she? She was used to meeting the smartest researchers, Olympic-caliber athletes, famous speakers, influential politicians… people the lowly high school kids only dreamed of meeting.

For some reason, she took a liking to me and we became friends. I found out that she was actually a very sweet person. She wasn’t aloof, she was almost painfully shy. But, once she got to know you, she was witty and caring and just a regular teenager. OK, a teenager who rubbed elbows with people I only read about, but she took nothing for granted. She was grateful for all the advantages her dad’s position afforded.

Don't Judge a Book...

Of course, the moral of the stories is that we shouldn’t use the outsides of people to judge their insides. And yet, we do. Research shows that it takes about 1/10th of a second to form a first impression and that opinion rarely changes with longer exposure. Imagine all of the amazing people we’ll never know because they aren’t attractive enough, or we meet them on a bad day, or they’re just really shy.

God Sees Your Heart

Thankfully, God looks past our outside and zeroes in on what’s in our hearts. He knows the intentions behind our actions. He doesn’t listen to the words from our mouths. He listens to the words from our hearts.

I love that because my words don’t always match my intentions and my actions don’t always reflect what’s in my heart. God knows that I am an imperfect person, but He also knows that I want to be faithful to His commandments. Because of His grace, I am forgiven of my imperfections.

A Word with God

Heavenly Father, thank you for your gift of salvation. Thank you for seeing what's in my heart instead of relying on what I say or do. Help me to look past outward appearances and actions to see the real person. Amen.

One More Thought

Have you had a similar experience as mine where you've found that your first impression wasn't correct? I'd love to hear about it and how you overcame that first impression.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Random Acts of Kindness

Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love. Lao Tzu

Random Acts of Kindness Week 

This week has been set aside to promote kindness in schools, workplaces, families and society. The Random Acts of Kindness website has resources that you can use all year.

I have written and rewritten this post because what I want to say isn't coming out right. And I think that is because it seems ridiculous to me that we should even have to talk about being kind. It's crazy that we should have to have a Random Acts of Kindness Week.

Golden Rule

No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.
Jesus tells us that we should treat others as we would like to be treated (Matthew 7:12). It seems like such a simple thing. We know how we want to be treated, so we just do the same to others, right? 

Then why do we so often miss the mark?
  • We are impatient with the waitress who is having a bad day. 
  • We honk at the driver who pulls out in front of us and then drives 10 miles under the speed limit (OK, maybe you don't, but I definitely do!). 
  • We point out mistakes that our coworkers make, or at least smile inside. 
  • We yell at the kids when they don't meet our expectations. 
  • Today, I had someone "correct" something I said on Facebook. It was an unnecessary comment that wasn't even correct, but the arrogant tone of his comment still bothers me.

We hurt others in a million different ways.

The Consequences of Cruelty

Proverbs 11:17 warns us about the consequences of being hateful: "Your kindness will reward you, but your cruelty will destroy you."

Let us more and more insist on raising fund of love of kindness, of understanding, of peace. Money will come if we seek first the kingdom of God - the rest will be given.
As with just about everything in the Bible, there's more to the Golden Rule than meets the eye. Sure, Jesus wants us to be kind to others because it improves their lives and makes you feel pretty good, too. But, in his infinite wisdom, He knows that being hateful hurts us as well as the target of our ire.

Psychologists say that we pull others down to build ourselves up; by recognizing others' faults, we feel better about our own. Another reason for mistreating others is because our emotions are a reflection of our "motivational system" - the millions of goals that we set for ourselves from getting the kids to school on time to earning that big promotion at work. If we feel that someone is blocking our ability to meet those goals, we can lash out in frustration and anger.

Being cruel in this way doesn't improve us, it slowly eats away at our self-worth. Instead of allowing us to address our insecurities, it does nothing to make us better people by masking the real reasons for our actions.

Stopping the Hate

Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.
So, when you feel the urge to lash out at someone, what can you do to turn the interaction around to kindness? There are a few things you can try.

  1. Of course, God wants us to forgive someone who has wronged us. (Matthew 6:14-15) Not surprisingly, researchers have found that forgiving others helps the forgiver more than the forgiven.
  2. Change your thinking. If you find yourself ready to let loose on someone, think of something pleasant. Puppies are good. The outing you're looking forward to later in the week works too. Anything that diverts your thoughts and emotions will help diffuse your anger.
  3. Look at the incident from someone else's perspective. My husband rarely gets angry (proof that opposites attract!) and so I often try to see things through his eyes. What would he think about the situation? How would he react? 
  4. Everyone's got a story and it's helpful to think about why the person who made you angry acted that way. Perhaps they were angry at someone else and their actions are just misplaced anger (and so your anger would just perpetuate the chain reaction). Or maybe they are feeling insecure and want to build themselves up by tearing you down. If you can surmise the reason, it's easier to forgive and let it go.
  5. Reframe the incident. I often do this when driving. Other drivers always seems so inconsiderate when they drive too slow, cut me off, or refuse to use their turn signal. My daily commute used to put me in a foul mood until the day I saw an accident up ahead. I realized that, if the person I was behind wasn't driving so slow, I would have been the car to get hit. Perhaps God had a hand in keeping me out of harm's way. After that incident, I would thank God for slowing me down or keeping me from going into the lane I wanted to move to because He was probably saving me from an accident.
Wherever there is a human need, there is an opportunity for kindness and to make a difference.
So, during this Random Acts of Kindness Week, not only make a conscious effort to bring a smile to others' faces for no reason, but also work hard to keep from hurting others. And, if you are hurt by someone else, use one of the techniques above to let it go.