When I was young, I was much more impressed with myself than I am today. It’s possible I’ve gotten dumber over the decades and I am lucky enough to recognize it, or else I was never as smart as I once thought I was and I’ve finally come to grips with that. Either way, the golden glow of competency that I once believed I had has faded. This does not make me sad in any way.
During these passing years, however, I have learned a couple of things. Maybe the most important thing is that un-asked for advice is almost always ignored. This comes in helpful with spouses, children, friends, co-workers, really. almost everyone! Giving someone advice that they didn’t ask for is like pouring water on a man dying of thirst who has their mouth sewn shut. It might be the thing that is needed, but if they’re not ready for it, it just annoys and frustrates everyone concerned. So, over the years, I have gotten better at not giving unwanted advice. Again, this has marked an improvement in my own life.
I tend to see unasked for advice a lot on Facebook. Someone will post something that has made them happy, or that they just want to share with the world. The next thing you know, someone has popped in, peed in their Cheerios, and offered boatloads of advice that the original poster never asked for and almost certainly doesn’t want. I call this opinion incontinence, and I really do try to avoid it.
Today, I am going to go against this personal rule and offer some advice that you did not ask for and may very well not need. If you feel that is the case, let me know and I’ll refund you everything you paid to sign up for this blog. (Hint: I don’t charge anything.)
As i sit here at my keyboard with way more years behind me than will be in front of me, this is what I’d like to tell you:
Be kind when you’re supposed to. Be kind when you’re not supposed to. Feel free to be kind while the world watches, but doing it when no one else is watching feels best. I believe kindness makes you feel it best when you do it for someone or something that can’t possibly repay you in any way.
Kindness almost always costs you nothing and I believe you’ll get better ROI (Return on Investment) from kindness than you will from anything else in your life.
We all have many opportunities to be kind every day. The more we keep our eyes open for opportunities to be kind, the more those opportunities will arise.
I’m not going to list all the ways I try to be kind every day because those are my ways. You need to find your own way. If you tell yourself every morning “Today, I will look for ways to practice kindness,” believe me, they’ll show up. Besides, if I tell you about my ways, it kind of defeats the whole “doing it while the world isn’t watching” thing.
Beware your own beliefs and opinions.
You feel strongly about some things. They might be religious, or political, or just personal viewpoints. Good for you! (I don’t mean that sarcastically, in case it came across like that. I really mean it. Good for you.) It’s good to have core values and strong beliefs.
But, here’s the thing: Other people who are just as intelligent, well-meaning and thoughtful as you hold a belief that is exactly the opposite of yours. No matter how we try to fool ourselves otherwise, there is no one right answer. And that’s okay. It’s great, even. I’d like to say that these differences can make for great, spirited discussion, but anyone who’s been on Facebook or the internet in general knows that’s probably not the case.
I learned a new phrase this past week that I kind of love: “Self-sealing logic.” I think that is so perfect to someone who has decided they are so right about something that they refuse to open their mind to any new information. I’ve seen more of this self-sealing logic in the last year than I can ever recall seeing.
So here’s my advice: Celebrate your similarities and allow your differences with people. We all have more in common with each other than we’d often like to admit, but we spend so much time focusing on those smaller areas where we differ. I have strong beliefs and opinions on a lot of issues: gay marriage, religion, immigration policies, etc. I don’t talk about those things with people because I’ve learned that I’m not going to change someone’s mind. And, the fact that some of my best friends hold opinions that run completely counter to me doesn’t impact me in any way. It’s like if I went to McDonalds and ordered a Big Mac and got upset if the lady behind me ordered a Quarter Pounder instead. The fact that she believes that is a better sandwich doesn’t invalidate my own sandwich in any way.
Also, it’s possible, if you are an aware, growing human being that those opinions will change over time. Mine certainly have, and they likely will as long as I am breathing. I’d hate to belittle one of my friends for holding an opinion and then eventually realize I agreed with them.
I know that’s not much, but that’s what I’ve learned in my five decades plus on Earth. Be kind to each other. Allow others to have opinions you do not share. It’s simple advice, and I promise it’s worth every penny you paid for it.