Assuming you haven’t been living under a rock, you know that our world is really hurting right now. Scary, heart-breaking news has been coming out with a frequency that makes me shudder. All this pain has continually shattered my heart–it’s an awful realization that there are many people who truly don’t value human life or see its inherent worth and preciousness.
I know for sure that the healing salve for hurt and hate is love and compassion. And when we think the only way to practice loving others is to fly across the world to a third world country, we’re sadly disillusioned. There are ways to value the lives of others every day; at a time when human life is made to be cheap, disposable, and worthless, acting in a way that affirms another’s worth is priceless and important. Here are some ideas:
Treat anyone who is serving you with warmth, interest, and kindness. Do not sigh heavily when the grocery clerk is slow; make intentional conversation with him/her instead and find something to genuinely compliment (I often thank fellow Type-A clerks for bagging my groceries by food item or verbally admire a piece of jewelry, nail polish color, etc.).
When you’re at a restaurant, look up from your table and engage with your waiter or waitress. Then, when you’re finished, leave a generous tip and a nice note. Emphasis on the and. Not just a note. Never just a note.
Thank people, sincerely. This is affirmative and acknowledges that someone is doing something for you. Thank your mail person. Thank your hair stylist. Thank your clerk, even if you’re just grabbing a bottle of water from the gas station. Thank your spouse. Thank your friends. Say thank you as often as you can. It’s still a magic word.
Give specific compliments to people you know (and people you don’t know). Anyone can say, “You look pretty,” try “I love the way that shade of blue you’re wearing brings out your eyes. You have such a classic and beautiful style!” instead.
Learn how to ask questions. I am infinitely curious, so this comes naturally to me, but if you’re not a question-asker, learn to become one. Ask people: What are you doing after work today? What do you most look forward to on the weekends? Why do you do X? What is your family like? Tell me about your childhood. What’s it like living with X condition? How can I support you through X? What good things are happening in your life right now? I heard you went through X. What was that like? Asking others about themselves is a lost art…you would be shocked at how much people will share with you if you just ask. (Obviously, use wisdom and discernment when asking questions. Don’t be rude or nosey.)
Don’t try to fix everything. When someone shares something that’s frustrating, painful, hard, or sad, don’t immediately offer up your best advice. (Also, don’t say something along the lines of “better you than me!” #unhelpful) Instead, practice compassion. Practice listening. Practice sitting in uncomfortable silence for the sake of someone else. Say, “I’m so sorry that’s happened” or “That must be really hard, how are you feeling?” Affirm feelings and emotions. This will change your relationships.
Get all the way off your cell phone when you’re in the middle of something. Your cell phone screen is not more important than the person in front of you, even if that person is a stranger. Put away your phone when you’re checking out at Target, ordering at Starbucks, or having dinner with your significant other. Just doing this one thing is a radical way to value others in this overly-connected world.
Talk to people about what they love, even if it’s boring to you. If you’re childless and don’t care whether your friend’s two year old is potty-training, ask about it anyway, if only because it matters to her. Showing an interest in the lives of others, even and especially in areas that you don’t care about, is challenging but important. When you’re at the grocery store and you ask the clerk how she is, ask why when she responds, “Oh, it’s been a bad day.” Her response may not change your day, but it could change hers. We all need to be heard sometimes.
Don’t move through life at such a speed that you miss the people around you. Slow way down. (If this feels impossible, move south, we’re good at it down here! 😉 ) Stop tailgating the old person in front of you when they’re going 30 in a 45mph zone (I’m terrible at this, but working on it). Give grace to the frazzled mom with four kids blocking the aisle; she’s doing the best she can. Head to another aisle and loop back later. Life is not an emergency. Slow down.
Give people the benefit of the doubt. Don’t assume the worst in everyone, and don’t always assume that everyone is out to get you (I sometimes struggle with the former). If your girlfriend hasn’t gotten back to you, imagine that she’s had a busy week at work, not that she doesn’t care about your friendship anymore. If your co-worker hasn’t paid you back yet, imagine that he’s forgotten and gently remind him instead of deciding he’s cheap and irresponsible.
If we all learned to be a little gentler, kinder, more compassionate, more thoughtful, and more loving, our little worlds would be happier, healthier, stronger places. Don’t let the intimidation of saving the whole world from evil stop you from spreading joy where you are. Valuing other people is a great place to start.
// How do you show others that you value them?
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