Looking Beyond the Surface – Learning to be Humble and Kind

Tim McGraw’s new song, “Humble and Kind”( www.youtube.com/watch?v=awzNHuGqoMc) reminds me of an encounter a few years back: I was sitting at the counter of a pizza place in Naples, Florida waiting to pick up a quick dinner for the kids. I sat and watched the waitress behind the counter, a young lady who had a rather large tattoo on her arm. I sat there thinking, “I wonder if someday she will regret this very noticeable body art.” I was judging this young lady by the single act of getting a tattoo. I decided to engage and started a casual conversation as I waited for my order. What I learned was that she was intelligent, respectful, and charming. She was actually something very different than what I wrongly perceived by a single tattoo. I soon respectfully and inquisitively asked, “Tell me the story of your tat (rather hip lingo for someone of a different generation) and if you think you will ever regret the decision.”

What I learned was that years ago, she had a horrific accident that left a nasty, everlasting scar on her forearm. She was always self-conscious of the scar and it constantly reminded her of a time in her life that she wished she could forget. She decided to cover the scar with a tattoo that would be symbolic of her mother. Her mother, she said, had been her rock, getting her through that hard time in her life. As she wrapped up the quick explanation, she finished with, “I will never regret the decision as it has a lasting meaning to me and has given me a new sense of confidence!”

I better realize now that being judgment free, being humble and kind, has lasting value. The young lady and I went on about our business, with mutual respect and a connection based on learning more about each other and good communication without humble-and-kindjudgment.

Reflecting on that interaction, I am reminded of the lyrics to Tim McGraw’s song, “Humble and Kind.” I love this song and message found in the lyrics (He also has a book by the same name.)

                                                      Humble and Kind  by Tim McGraw

You know there’s a light that goes by the front door Don’t forget the keys under the mat Childhood stars shine, always stay humble and kind Go to church cause your momma says to Visit grandpa every chance that you can It won’t be a waste of time Always stay humble and kind.

Reflection Time spent with elders is never a waste of time. Honor and respect the guidance of elders in your life no matter your age has endless value.
I am blessed to spend weekly dinners with my mom, something we work very hard not to miss. This weekly time is for both of us—it’s a way for me to honor my mother for all shemom-and-bob has done for me a nd it gives her something to look forward to each week. We visit about the past and the wonderful memories of her life, family, and of my father, her husband. Despite days when I am not in the mood, I still maintain our “date” and later walk away feeling glad I was there. I wanted to be there for us and I always treasure my time with her. As my dad use to say, “Someday we will not be able to do this!”

And to my family and friends, the light is always on to welcome you. It is never a bother, but rather an honor, to have friends stop in and for family to know they are always welcome.

  [Chorus]

Hold the door, say please say thank you Don’t steal, don’t cheat, and don’t lie I know you got mountains to climb but Always stay humble and kind When the dreams you’re dreamin’ come to you When the work you put in is realized Let yourself feel the pride but Always stay humble and kind.

Reflection At times when you are feeling insecure, or hurt, it is easy to fall back into self-pity and loose perspective of the power of kindness and grace. I need to remind myself of this as I can revert to not being kind, being overbearing, or acting like a dog with a bone or cause others to feel they must walk on “egg shells” when I am feeling personally hurt or challenged. This kind of snarky or overbearing behavior never ingratiates you to anyone. When I slip, I can only hope and pray that I have built a reservoir for grace and forgiveness to overcome it. The relationship is strong enough to be called on the carpet to remind me what I was doing…sometimes a simple “STOP IT” is all that should be needed. I’ve learned kindness is never wasted and that two of the most powerful phrases are THANK YOU and FORGIVE ME when these phrases are used in a heartfelt, and authentic manner in their use.

The Greeks had words for four different types of love: Eros (romantic love), Phileo love-photo-for-rambling(enjoyment, fondness, friendship), Storge (family loyalty), and Agape (unconditional love). Regardless of the type, love provides a foundation for a meaningful life and deep relationships that will carry you through your life, through success and failure. And remaining humble and kind will provide a bedrock enabling you to give to others through selfless acts.

 [Verse 2]

Don’t expect a free ride from no one Don’t hold a grudge or a chip and here’s why Bitterness keeps you from flying Always stay humble and kind Know the difference between sleeping with someone And sleeping with someone you loveI love you ain’t no pick-up line so Always stay humble and kind.

Reflection Life is a precious gift, yet what we do with it is up to us. There are no guarantees in life. We need to work hard, exhibit dedication, take care of ourselves, dress, and carry ourselves with pride, remember to say thank you, work on personal growth and relationships and then maybe we’ll have some good fortune (Luck). Don’t expect a free ride from no one. Don’t hold a grudge or a chip and here’s why, bitterness keeps you from flying.” Bitterness or holding a grudge never brings about anything good. So, practice grace and forgiveness and appreciate that we are all human, we all make mistakes. Love and forgiveness are the bedrock to a healthy and happy life.

[Outro]

When it’s hot, eat a root beer popsicle Shut off the “ac” and roll the windows down Let that summer sun shine Always stay humble and kind Don’t take for granted the love this life gives you When you get where you’re goin’ Don’t forget turn back around Help the next one in line Always stay humble and kind.

Reflection As a child, I was a lover of root beer popsicles, something I do seldom now,popcicle however when I do, it brings levity to life. Having levity and not always being serious is healthy for us as well as those around us. Letting yourself enjoy and embrace life as it is given is critical. Do not hide behind a “window.” Those around you can see in, and the window gives only a false sense of fitting in. Rolling it down allows you to belong and be transparent, a key quality to a meaningful life and relationships.

 Taking success and what we are given for granted is unfortunate and results in our inability to fully appreciate the gifts we have been given. We do not succeed alone, we succeed with the help and compassion of others that we bring into our lives. What makes this more meaningful is the willingness to turn around and extend the same gift to those around us. There will always be a “next in line,” and our legacy is not what we have accomplished, but who we have helped behind us. That’s what makes us a more meaningful, purposeful person.

Remember Tim McGraw’s magnificent song and the meaning and substance behind the lyrics and always be Humble and Kind.

never-be-too-kind

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Part 2 – This Could Save Your Life! Congratulations, Your Oxytocin Is Raging.

Hello reader, this is the second part of a two-part blog post. In the first part, I wrote about finding one’s purpose and how the “river of life” can cause us to change course as we move through life. Now I’d like to rambling on stress and how stress is perceived and role of service can influence and impact our quality of life.

A few weeks ago, I went to see a fascinating and thought-provoking speaker at the Faith god-of-the-big-bangand Life Lecture Series in Plymouth. Dr. Leslie Wickman, an engineer, research scientist, and astronaut (!), author of God of the Big Bang: How Science Affirms the Creator, discussed the debate about how God and science go together. Dr. Wickman was insightful, thought provoking, and rather astonishing as she talked about her revelations and beliefs in the convergence of science and creation, as opposed to science or creation. Something she said really stuck with me: “Science is constantly struggling and researching the how’s, why’s and extraordinary wonders of what God created.”

Dr. Wickman introduced the work of Dr. Kelly McGonigal, a psychologist, (Isn’t it interesting how one thought-provoking opportunity can lead you to another?) and her Ted Talk, “Make Stress Your Friend.” Dr. McGonigal says new research suggests that stress may only be bad for you if you believe that it is. She challenges us to think about stress differently, to see it as a positive that can propel us into connecting with others and reducing our health risks associated with stress. Interesting concept!

Let’s look at how we can befriend stress but first, let me take you back to my two “EKGs” that I shared with you in Part I:

ekg-calm                                       ekg-extreme

This represents the Bob others saw.         Meanwhile, this is how I was feeling inside.

My own “personal growth” challenge has been to make the second graph look and feel more like the first.

Here’s what I learned from Dr. McGonigal about stress (I’m paraphrasing): A University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health study followed 30,000 adults over eight years. Each year they were asked how much stress they had experienced in the past year and if they believed stress was harmful to their health. Researchers then looked at public health records to see who had died. The result? Those who had experienced a significant amount of stress had a 43 percent increased risk of dying. However, this was only true if they felt stress was harmful to their health. For those in the study who had significant amounts of stress but didn’t feel and view stress was harmful to their health, their chance of dying was no different than anyone else. In fact, they had the lowest rates of death across the study. The results raised the notion of a relationship between how you think about stress and how stress impacts your health.

So, some discovered take-always:stress-rambling-pt-11

You can change how your body will react to stress (and perhaps protect your health).

  • Stress tells the body to be energized and to respond: the heart rate goes up and blood vessels constrict. The Achilles heel is that causing your blood vessels to contract is a leading cause of heart disease, heart attack, and death when you experience prolonged stress.
  • However, and this is huge, for those who view stress as something positive and energizing, the blood vessels do not constrict, although the heart rate still goes up. The difference between a stress-related heart attack and living to your 90s maybe how you view stress! The better we are at how we perceive and manage stress has a significant impact on our lives. What is even more interesting is that moments of joy and courage have the same effect on the body and its response. There is an attitude that says, “This is my body rising to the challenge of this stressful situation.”
  • Stress encourages you to be more social as it triggers a hormone, Oxytocin, affectionately known as the hug hormone or cuddle chemical, which is the same hormone released when you hug someone. It’s also a neuropeptide that primes you to strengthen close relationships, have empathy, crave affection and physical contact with friends and family. It makes you more willing to care and support others.
  • Oxytocin is part of the stress response: It is motivating you to seek support, to tell someone how you feel vs bottling it up. This magnificent Oxytocin is your body’s stress response telling you it wants and needs to be surrounded with people who care about you.
  • Now here’s what just may save your life (see, tie-back to the title of this post!): Oxytocin protects the cardiovascular system—your heart, from the deadly effects of prolonged stress. It triggers the heart cells to re-energize and helps strengthen your heart which is enhanced by social contact and support!

To recap: Our positive attitude toward stress actually protects the heart and is a natural anti-inflammatory that relaxes our blood vessels and helps strengthen the heart. And, social contact and emotional connection produces oxytocin which helps you build a positive resilience to stress. Think about this, Oxytocin – Social Contact – Caring- Serving and Resilience all tie together, you see:

Outward love can be lifesaving as opposed to being inwardly prideful!

Caring-Created Resilience

Okay, one more piece of science for us! A 2013 study at the University of Buffalo, New York,caring-created-resilience-photo-for-pt-11 tracked 1,000 adults, their stress levels, and the amount of time they spent helping others. The researchers then looked at public records over the next five years to determine who had died. They discovered that a major stress event had increased the risk of dying by 30 percent. However, those who exhibited significant amounts of caring for others had a 0 percent increase in dying. Zero Percent.

The study showed that people who cared for others had no stress-related increase in death—they had developed stress resilience. What this study suggests is that how you think and act can impact your body’s reaction to stress. Stress provides us a real connection to our hearts and a caring, compassionate heart that finds joy in connecting with others can actually improve our heart health!

My challenge to all of us is to start seeing stress as an ally. Find ways to get that oxytocin flowing. Give more hugs, interact with others. Share our gifts and time through a spirit of servanthood. Use stress to build on the positive aspects of life. It just may enable us to be around longer!

When you create a mindset of being stress resilient and courageous, you are making a profound statement about being a caring person who can handle life’s challenges and that we don’t need to face them alone!

How do I build better resilience? :

  • Productivity and resilience begins with rest, take time to reflect
  • Stop Whining (privately and publically)!
  • Remember two key words daily – THANK YOU!
  • Travel Lightly – it is ok to not always be serious – have fun!
  • Go to the next party! – Follow your dreams, if one is not working, go to the next as Dreams Know the Way (Kobi Yamada)
  • stress-photo-poster

Now let’s get those inner and outer EKGs aligned and get that Oxytocin Raging!

 

This Could Save Your Life! (Part 1)

Hello reader, this is the first of a two-part blog post. Look for Part II next week.

I used to have two stress meters or “Bob’s EKG’s,” if you will. One reflected my outward persona; the Bob everyone around me saw. The other was my own internal barometer that measured how I was feeling on the inside.

The outward EKG was pretty cool and calm and in control. See Illustration A.

ekg-calm

Illustration A: The Bob those around me saw.

The other felt like Illustration B. Wow, what a difference, huh?

ekg-extreme

Illustration B: What I felt like inside!                               

I decided that if I wanted to live a long (and healthy!) life, I’d better bring Illustration B closer in line with Illustration A. I knew it wouldn’t be easy. And I knew I needed some guidance as growth cannot occur without the help of others.

The River of Life Isn’t life interesting?  It’s a constant journey of learning and discovery, the current ever changing. It flows much like a river, constantly reinventing itself. The river, with its tumbling stones and debris, is constantly being reshaped in ways and at a pace we can’t always see but we know it’s happening.

The “River of Life” keeps changing our understanding and perspective on life and those around us.

Our lives also are constantly changing, being shaped by objects or experiences that can change us for the better or perhaps “pollute” us. However, unlike the river we have a choice as to how we let the stones and debris of life change us. What have been your choices? Is what you project to others what you feel inside?

A while back, I was asked to read and study Rick Warren’s, The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For?

rick-warren-purpose-driven-life

I must admit I was nervous as I was unsure how I would express my ignorance, so to protect my misguided shame, I studied it in advance, a mistake, without good communication, I insulted the person who suggested and as a result, I studied without the benefit of collaborative help with and from someone . Recently, I re-read it, mostly because I have such a different perspective on what it has to say and the deep meaning behind the words and message.

This same revelation happened with C.S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters. I attended the play acs-lewis-screwtape-letters few years ago, but it wasn’t until recently, when I read the book, that what Lewis was writing about actually sunk in and gave me such an interesting perspective on life as well as my faith. In brief, the story is a satire on human nature and is built on letters written by an old retired demon to a newbie demon, a protégé, on how to mess with a new Christian (referred to as a “patient”) and lead him astray. Lewis addresses universal questions about Christian faith through the perspective of the devil who is trying to take over and destroy the soul of his patient.

So, what does all of this have to do with saving your life you ask? Ah, patience my dear readers as I am confident it will become clear in my own rambling, (and, at times) convoluted manner.

Back to The Purpose Driven Life: Rick Warren has much to say. However, this Rambling is not a book report. It is instead a few thoughts that I hope may provoke your own personal introspection and thoughts as to how Warren’s message may apply to your life. Here are a few key phrases from the book that, in part, tie in with the theme of this Rambling:

  • . . . the search for the purpose of life . . . typically begins at the wrong starting point, ourselves, when in reality it begins with who created us!
  • . . . being successful and fulfilled in your life’s purpose are not the same thing.
  • Self-sacrifice is the way to finding yourself, your true self!

So, a question for you: What (little devil) is distracting you from finding your purpose?

Think about this interesting analogy Warren has on finding purpose:

If you were given an invention that you had never seen, did not know its origin, did not know the inventor, and were asked to describe its purpose, what are the chances you would know for sure what its purpose was? The chances you’d nail it would be very remote, if at all.

The same is true for us: What is our purpose? Asking for help and guidance from our inventor/creator is the answer. Otherwise, in my opinion, there are only two options and just one that has certainty:

  • work on your best guess or preferably…
  • revelation

And with that, please watch for Part II, next week!