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.
Finally, if you haven’t done so already, be sure to sign-up for our free newsletter to receive new articles like this in your inbox each week.
It just dawned on me reading this that I always try to ensure when I speak to others that my words are true, helpful and kind, however I don’t apply this when talking to myself, so thank you fir helping me with this realisation!
Doris L. Smith says
Thank you for sharing these stories. It forced me to take a look at myself and ask do I really take time to look, listen or just love. It really bought me to awareness of how I should be mindful to what I think, say and do.
I relate to the second story and how I sometimes are always in a hurry. I need to take the time to listen? Thanks
Bob Simonda says
Both stories re good, great & mind blowing.
Dianne Parnell says
Thank you for this great story…..I am doing a FB live today and didn’t know what to talk about….Reading your story gave me food for thought….Thank you…
Thomas Akanvese says
“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.”
This story is telling us that we should welcome (or at least give a chance to) whoever comes our way.
Nicole L Magoon O'Neill says
I agree 100… I’ve been sinking in a covert narcissiticrelationship for the past 20 months. I was drowing in his vile words, judgements, ridicule, torment…yada yada. And along the way I started to believe his techniques, the gaslighting, his jekyl and hyde personality did put the sinker on dragging me down. It only took the kind words of a couple confident strong people to point out to me that I could pull myself up out of the lagoon and whether they knew that they were standing for the powerful moving words of socrates, or had they no knowledge of spiritual gifts of this wonderful empathetic young woman. WHen they spoke of the convictions and affirmed that I needed to surface above the muck that I was imprisoned to and to realize I too was blessed with gifts and I would rise up and find myself again to share with others how to still be kind, loving and understanding of others because we too had suffered similar abuse and that just the kindness, the truth and useful , loving word and observancy could save us from the horrible abuse. That we too have a moral responsibility to all mankind to show love and to similarly heal through each other. Thanks to all who contributed with their own perception and understanding to keep fresh in my mind and heart to share with a broader understanding and purpose.
Kimberley Mabon says
Both of the stories resonated with me. They are so true in every respect and to read and think and remember what the message is, is exactly what we as a society should do more frequently!
Linda Gray says
The quote from the previous post you mentioned:
Be a Blessing, Be a friend.
Encourage someone: 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.
Made me think of my husband is almost totally disabled .
I need to be more patient with him. He has a difficulty talking so I need to ENCOURAGE him to continue. I need to better understand and have compassion for him when he spills something or causes his walker to almost fall. I need to talk slowly to him and ask him what wish or desires does he have ( he is 86 years old – not sure how much time he has). I need to express my love for him and understanding. Thank you for your encouraging words.
Jennifer Reid says
Wise words, Angel! Thanks for sharing your and Marc’s thoughts. I always benefit from the lessons and reminders in your posts. I will carry the thought of paying attention to other people’s “rodeos” with me. Certainly I listen, but I can improve my effort to be more focused and attentive.
Velma Jean Taylor says
Both stories resonated with me and I truly was blessed with truth, good and useful!! Thanks for sharing!
Jimmy Neil Smith says
I love these stories. Thank you.
I have a very hard time understanding Michelle’s father’s intentions.
Same. I don’t understand how it taught her to love, but maybe just to step into other people’s shoes
I think what Michelle’s father was trying to do was show Michelle the joy in see others be happy. Watching people smile and soaking in the vibrant energy of others can be really heart warming. It encourages you to see the best in everyone.
Hi there!! First of all, my sincere thanks to both of you, it gives me immense pleasure to read your emails and stories, which is always full of good values and learning. I deeply appreciate your efforts and attempts to keep us engage with your help and support, throughout. God bless and keep writing.
Loads of regards and tons of wishes,
i wasn’t so nice today. a workman came to my house to fix something. i was so nervous about getting him out of my house ASAP that l was barely civil. just wanted him off the premises so l could have my clean cozy space to myself. didnt consider the fact that he’s the one having to put himself out there to keep working during this pandemic.
Compassion for our fellow man is badly needed. Thank you as always Marc and Angel.
Tanya Kravcenko says
My partner has taught me to be present in the moment and to watch what is happening around me. To not think of just how I am feeling but to watch how other people are feeling too. Quite often we will go out fishing and just immerse ourselves in the surroundings and take time to just sit back and watch what is going on. In our fast paced world we need to do this more so. It is good for us to just rest and be grateful for the little things and the happiness other people are enjoying – it is not just about our own happiness.
Dear Marc and Angel,
I enjoy reading your post. I wanted to comment on a previous one about the protesting when it first began. I wanted to share how in the eighties when my my husband and I were (first married, he worked for a local hospital in our city as a computer programmer. He had to brave a lot of n……er jokes, and we finally got fried chicken in space comments. (Ron McNair), and he found out that his boss didn’t want to hire him because he is African American, but his boss director made him hire my husband because he was the most qualified.
Two years after we married, we bought our first home, and the yard needed a lot of care and attention. My husband worked diligently in that yard and he attracted the attention of our new backyard neighbor, who spoke with his boss about him, and told him that he didn’t know what type of work my husband did, but if it was in computer programming, he needed to hire him. So my neighbor introduce himself to my husband and asked him about his line of work, and about putting in an application to where my neighbor worked. My husband got the job and is about four years from retiring, all because of our backyard neighbor. We became good friends with this sweet Caucasian man and his family. My husband has met a lot of good people at his present job who treat him with great respect and appreciation.
We cherish the memory of our backyard neighbor who is no longer with us. We will always be thankful to God for sending his angel to us.
P.S. There are a lots of Marilyn M. and Ella F. stories out there and has always been so.
Michele Bluestone says
It is a long journey for many to find and be happy. Until that time, it is important to first learn to sit still with self and observe others as did the little girl and her father on the dock. Happiness, it seems, can be caught…yep, just like a virus, but this time, a very positive one. There is much to simply awaking each morning, watching the sun rise, sipping a cup of tea or coffee, and being present in the new day. All that is required is that we breathe, and in that breath, take in the the gift of simply living. Gratefulness leads to giving. Giving leads to greater happiness. And, happiness leads to love… And, what else is there to living?
Bob Mave says
Two great stories! I love both of them, but the second one looks more appealing to me. How to love, spent time with, listen to, and being compassionate to others are the things every heart naturally needs. Showing love and kindness is the greatest thing we can do to humanity.
Thank you Marc and Angel.
The true, good, and useful story hit home with me. As a freelance writer, I try to write about things that matter with no filler content. But, it’s hard sometimes. I’m always honest in my writing, but the story reminds me that no content is better than something that isn’t good or useful to a reader.
Christopher Simoes says
Well here it goes :
kind words automatically come out if your surrounded by kind atmosphere.
I understand what the child’s father was demonstrating was simple things in life.
It took that child up until adult life to realize
like me it took 23 years happiness and sadness to realize the relationship was going nowhere.
what I’m eluding to
lost everything…..material and family
But life ; Gained experience
Cherish kind words if the other person doesn’t
Don’t waist your time volunteering if your there for somebody else even that if people don’t appreciate you volunteering go else where until YOUR HAPPY
Don’t look back look forward to a new day
Thank you for this story and your emails. I just returned to the States after a year in an austere post in Afghanistan and my reintegration has had its challenges. These positive articles really bring home to me what is important.
Jane Eastman says
Actually, both stories resonated with me. The first because I need to do more of it, but the second because it reminded me of someone I grew up with and really didn’t like. We met years later shortly before her death and she remembered things about me.
Mary Weddle says
I liked the first story the most. There is so much drama and words can hurt deeply especially when unfounded and not true. Even if it is true, to speak about another as in this story is gossip. I like the three questions for deciding if you want or need to know. Probably, not much at all would pass the test.
These two stories have really helped me to now judge quickly until I have enough evidence and also to spread love even when there’s hate
Thanks very much
Mona Al Qemzi says
To be honest both stories had an impact on me, even though I’ve heard the 1st one before.
It’s good to be reminded of such stories, to help us navigate through life.
The 2nd story helped to understand the value of spending time with someone, of being present in every aspect of the word, which is something that most people are able to do these days. They’re too busy watching videos on their social media’s or on their phones.
To be actually present, one pays attention to the other and acknowledges their presence and values the time spent together.
Love both stories, with life being so busy and hectic we forget about our surrounding and others. It nice to get the reality check that we are here to love and be loved. Show and share kindness, compassion, love for one another.
Very often silence is the right choice in front of words thrown to the wind
joseph s says
wonderful,thank you for sharing these thought=provoking stories.
Lindsey D says
I love this so much! Both of these stories really resonate with me and I hope they do for all of your readers. What a blessing we have that we are able to put out slices of goodness in the universe. I’ve always found that the number one thing that helps me rise above hard times – is helping others who are going through hardships. Love is about being there for our fellow humans and knowing we are not alone and that we are loved in spite of our faults and foibles.
Achu Nice says
These stories are enriching. You’ve revealed the way I should give and receive info about others with the first and You’ve informed and transformed the way I love with the second intriguing story . I never hesitate to glean the wisdom you share here.
Achu Nice Anne
Thank you for the second story…it is very meaningful and a great reminder of living in the moment, each moment we get to live.
Appreciate the lesson.
sagar gupta says
I just love this article
Maria ( from New Zealand ) says
Your posts are truly inspirational. It lifts up my spirits every time I read them. Life is so short and precious and we must make the most of it all, sharing laughter, happiness , and be the constant strength and pillar of support for someone who needs us . To Be Present is the most wonderful gift we can give to anyone !
N. K. Bansal says
Amazing stories. Very useful for ones own life. Really wonderful. Thanks for providing opportunity to read such stories.
First of all, my sincere thanks to both of you, it gives me immense pleasure to read your emails and stories, which is always full of good values and learning. I deeply appreciate your efforts and attempts to keep us engage with your help and support, throughout. God bless and keep writing.
Raj says says
I love the way the two of you are sharing amazing information. It really puts a lot of things in perspective. And it gives me inspiration to overthink my life and look at my own role.
There’s only one thing that keeps me confused: taking risks, following my feelings and also that things aren’t always easy…I have serious doubts about my relationship.
thank you very much for your article
Obada Rex says
The stories are truly inspiring. It learnt how to truly care for others.
Manoj Horo says
Both stories are interesting. keep posting
Jonavie Cruz says
The stories made me realize a lot upon reading it. I recently had an issue with one of our guests and fortunately I was kind to her despite her behavior. What I keep on asking with myself is why is she like that?Like I can’t understand how she can treat other people harshly. The short stories above helps open my mind, understand and empathize with others. Thank you so much.
I am sharing your articles with my colleagues and they all love it. 🙂
Lynda waksryk says
Thank you it opens your eyes about the things we can learn if we just take the time to watch and listen. The little things are sometimes the big thing.