Compliment people. Sometimes you will say something really small and simple, but it will fit right into an empty space in someone’s heart.
This morning, I shared two quick stories on Zoom with a small group of digital Think Better, Live Better conference attendees. “I appreciate the perspective, and the invitation to change how I show up in my relationships,” one attendee replied. A dozen others said they agreed. So, I figured I’d share these stories with you in hopes that you find value in them too. Try to read each one slowly and thoughtfully. Take the little lessons to heart. See how doing so changes how you show up in your interactions and conversations with others today…
Story #1 — True, Good, and Useful
A couple thousand years ago in ancient Greece, the great philosopher Socrates was strolling contemplatively around a community garden when a neighbor walked up to him and said, “You’re never in a million years going to believe what I just heard about our mutual friend…”
“Wait,” Socrates interrupted, putting his hand up in the air. “Before you continue with this story, your words must pass the triple filter test?”
“The triple filter test,” Socrates said.
The neighbor just stared at him with a blank expression.
Socrates continued, “The first filter is Truth. Are you absolutely sure the story you are about to tell me is true?”
“Well, no,” the neighbor said, “I literally just heard it from someone else I know.”
“Ah-ha…” Socrates quickly replied, “then let’s move on to the second filter. Is what you are about to share Good in any way, shape or form?”
“No… no,” the neighbor said, “This story is actually quite…”
Before he could finish his sentence, Socrates interrupted him again, “Ahh… so it may not be true and it is definitely not good.”
“That’s right,” the neighbor assured him.
“Well, you may still be able to save yourself,” Socrates said. “Is anything about the story you want to share Useful?”
The neighbor stared blankly again for a moment and then said, “No, I suppose it’s not really…”
“So, you want to tell me something that may not be true, is definitely not good, and is not useful to know?” Socrates asked. The neighbor looked down at the ground and nodded. “Well, you have no good reason to tell me this story, and you have no good reason to believe it yourself,” Socrates added, as the neighbor dolefully walked away.
. . .
In many ways, not too much has changed since ancient Greece, especially when it comes to the stories we tell ourselves and drama we perpetuate…
Every single day, we invest valuable time and energy into drama and hearsay. Many of us plug into social media first thing in the morning for reasons that have zero to do with what is true for us, good for us, and useful for those around us. Instead, we do it mostly as a default nervous reaction.
In an expansive universe in which there are abundant opportunities to discover what’s true, what’s good, and what’s useful, when we do the opposite, we know it. And while making that compromise — with lots of mind-numbing gossip — is tolerable for a little while, eventually it isn’t anymore. Our negligence catches up to us, and we begin to feel pain.
Don’t fall into the trap today. Instead take Socrates’ advice: simply focus on what is true, good, and useful. It worked well for Socrates a couple thousand years ago, and I assure you it continues to work well for many people today.
Story #2 — How to Love
You’d like Michelle a lot. Most people do. She’s the kind of person who listens when you talk, who smiles often, and who says things that make the people around her smile. She’s incredibly intelligent, but in a way that makes others feel comfortable. It’s the way she expresses herself in simple terms you can understand — almost like she’s articulating the thoughts you already have in your head, but haven’t quite found the right words to say aloud.
And it doesn’t matter who you are either. Michelle always has a way of relating to you. Because, in a way, she’s been there with you all along. She can think like you, so she understands you. It’s truly a special gift. So many of us have limitations in our perceptions. We understand the soldiers but not the politics governing the wars. We understand the people who go to the movies but not the ones who attend rodeos. But somehow, Michelle gets all of us. Again, it’s her gift.
If she hasn’t actually been to the rodeo you’re talking about — or any rodeo at all for that matter — she’ll be honest about it, but she’ll make you feel as if she was right there with you when you attended. And once you return home after spending a night with Michelle, you’ll catch yourself smiling and thinking about how there needs to be more people like her in the world. Because if there were, there would be far less to worry about.
Michelle passed away recently. I don’t really want to discuss the details right now, because honestly, they aren’t relevant. It could have been a car accident. It could have been old age. We are often far too concerned with how people died, rather than how they lived. And I want you to know how Michelle lived. She told stories — lots of stories that contained beautiful, subtle insights and wisdom about our lives and the world around us. And today, I want to share with you the last story she told me before she died:
“One Sunday morning when I was a little girl, my father surprised me and took me to the fishing docks. But instead of fishing, like all the other little girls and boys were doing with their parents, we sat down on the end of one of the docks and watched all the other children fish. For over an hour, we sat there and watched until we left without ever casting a single fishing line into the water.
I was simultaneously sad and angry. On the drive home I told my father that I’d never forgive him for being so mean to me. He looked at me, smiled and said, “I love you, Michelle.” When I didn’t respond, he asked, “Did you notice how happy all the other little girls and boys were? Did you see their smiles? Could you feel the happiness in their hearts?” After a moment of silence I quickly snapped, “I don’t really care! I just want to go fishing like everyone else!” My father took a deep breath and kept driving.
We went back to the fishing docks dozens of Sunday mornings throughout my childhood. And each time we saw dozens of other little girls and boys jumping and laughing and celebrating as they reeled in fish. But we still never cast a single fishing line into the water. We just sat there on the end of that same dock and watched. And my father never explained why. But he didn’t need to. Because years later, after I entered adulthood, and found myself volunteering at a local homeless shelter, I suddenly realized that those mornings spent sitting on that dock was where I learned how to love.”
. . .
Michelle’s last story continues to make me think…
Too often we pass people in a hurry, without caring or thinking twice.
Or we judge those who aren’t moving at our pace.
And rarely do we ever stop. Just to witness. Or to listen. Or to love.
Because we forget, or perhaps never learned, that every passing face represents a story just as captivating, complicated and worthy as our own. Everyone has gone through something that has inadvertently changed them and forced them to struggle, adapt and grow. Everyone’s smile has been earned. Everyone we meet has fought hard, and continues to fight in some way. And to them, their issues are equally as significant and worthwhile as whatever we’re going through.
Pausing from time to time to appreciate all the human beings around us opens our minds. Sharing in their happiness (or their frustrations) opens our hearts. When we take time to pause — to truly witness and listen, instead of bypassing or judging too quickly — we can learn so much… about ourselves, about each other, and about real love.
Now, it’s your turn…
Above all, I hope the short stories above remind you that being kind to everyone — even someone you disagree with, dislike, or don’t even know — doesn’t mean you’re fake. It means you’re mature enough to control your emotions and channel them effectively.
So, be kind today. 🙂
And also remind yourself that people are generally kinder when they are happier, which says a whole lot about the people you meet who aren’t so kind to you.
Truly, let’s do our best to take it all to heart. Or, as Marc so eloquently stated in his most recent blog post…
Be a blessing.
Be a friend.
Take time to care.
Let your words heal, and not wound.
You have the power to improve someone else’s day, perhaps even their whole life, simply by giving them your sincere presence, compassion and kindness today.
And please leave us a comment before you go…
Did the two stories in this post resonate with you?
Which one resonated the most?
Leave a reply below and share your thoughts with us.
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