Though it is almost always the more difficult choice to make, I think it is very beneficial to always say hello to the people that you encounter during the day. When you choose to acknowledge someone’s presence with a simple “hello” and a smile you automatically assign value to the greeted person. I do not imagine that most people would assume to give no value to all of the people they don’t interact with during the day, but without intentionally showing our value of others we often passively communicate that we are indifferent to their presence. We communicate that it would be the same to us if they were there or if they were not present at all. I’m not going to talk about whether or not it is our responsibility to grant everyone a sense of value, but it certainly seems a better option to grant that value given the choice.
Not only do we communicate to others around us that they do have value (because they do) we also briefly invite others to participate and contribute to our lives. That participation might be as nominal as a greeting in return and nothing more, however; the important thing to consider is that the person that you greeted might contribute something much more substantial than a returned greeting. Personally, I can think of several ways myself and others have benefited greatly from inviting other people to contribute to our lives by saying hello.
On of my favorite examples happened to me earlier this year. The short version of the story features me taking an extra trip into campus for a reason that I cannot remember. While on my way in I saw a information table and display set up along the sidewalk. It would have been very easy for me to avert my eyes and pretend that I was too busy to acknowledge the people trying to offer helpful information about their organization. Instead of taking the easy way out, I chose to make eye contact and say hello to one of the organization’s representatives. The ensuing conversation led to an understanding that I was like minded on the cause the organization was advocating. As a result we continued our communication and eventually decided to partner together to collect items for women and children at the local Crisis Pregnancy Center.
It is nearly impossible to calculate or anticipate the outcomes of opening your life to others by saying hello. Most of our simple interactions with others probably will not lead to something as substantial as participating in the National Community Baby Shower, but we will never have those opportunities if we never open ourselves up to other people.
Of all the pieces of advice that I have ever heard and internalized there are few that are as significant to me as living with integrity. When I started applying this advice to my life, I began to see major changes take place that resulted in me being where I am today.
To live with integrity involves two aspects. The first aspect is fundamental to understanding what exactly integrity is. Simply stated, let your yes, be yes and your no, be no. Living with integrity means that you are going to do what you say you are going to do without any hint or indication otherwise. When you give your word and follow through with the appropriate action you will see that not only you feel a sense of accomplishment, but you will establish trust with others that rely on you. Following through when you have given your word is often more difficult as time passes and circumstances change. Because of the tendency for things to change, it will help to understand that when you do say “yes” to something or someone, you are in fact saying “no” to everyone else in the world. This will not help you decide how to act in the event of changing circumstances. It will however, help you make an informed decision in the beginning, which will help alleviate any decision making pressure in the future (because you will be reminded that you already made your decision).
If the first aspect of living with integrity can be considered the “public” aspect of integrity, then the second aspect would be the “private” aspect. Living with integrity also requires you to act in the same manner when are alone as when you are being watched. This again sounds simple enough, but if it always came naturally it would not be worth saying. The danger with this aspect of integrity is that there is no one to hold you accountable to it. If we choose to act a different way when we perceive that no one is looking we are lying to those who observe our actions. Our actions play a large part in defining who we are. Another reason to have integrity in our actions when no one is watching is because they directly influence our integrity with other people.
The dangers in choosing to live life without regard to integrity are as numerous to the benefits of choosing to live a life with integrity. To simplify the ramifications of each side I will say, your integrity will prove how much you value others and it will prove how much you value yourself.
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I am a big fan of author C.S. Lewis. His writing is eloquent, poignant, and rich. I often find myself rereading paragraphs of his writing in order to fully understand what he was writing. I recently finished his faith biography, Surprised By Joy, and now I am reading Reflections on the Psalms, both books are full of enlightening observations that encourage me in my relationship with Jesus. A few weeks ago I was wowed by Lewis again when reading his discussion of judgment in the Psalms and the motivation for bringing a lawsuit against other people. Here is one of my favorite quotes from the book:
“Indeed what is commonly called ‘sensitiveness’ is the most powerful engine of domestic tyranny, sometimes a lifelong tyranny. How we should deal with it in others I am not sure;but we should be merciless to its first appearances in ourselves.”
In the book Lewis had just discussed how often times in quarrels we pretend to have had our feelings hurt by an offense when the real issue was not the offense itself, but rather “envy, ungratified vanity, or thwarted self will” in ourselves. When the offense of another person touches one of these issues in ourselves we have a tendency to react in a disproportionate manner. The end result (whether it be legal action or discourse that permanently damages a relationship) can be far worse for all parties involved when a simple apology should have been enough to satisfy your wrath.
The difficulty in letting an apology suffice is that, as the offended, you have the right to enact justice. You have been wronged, you have the right to justice. It is easier to claim what you have a right to, justice. What is is more difficult, but better for you as a person is to forfeit that right for something greater. You have the right to demand justice, but the better result will come when you offer forgiveness.
The advice that I have to offer today is simply that of which C.S. Lewis suggested. “We should be merciless to its (sensitiveness) first appearance in ourselves” Rather than letting our sensitivity create strife for others let’s decide to forgive the offenses of others and not allow ourselves to be offended.
I do not like washing dishes. It’s time consuming, it’s dirty, and it only gets done in time for more dishes to pile up. However, I think that doing the dishes might be one of the most beneficial things that I can do for myself and my household.
I know that when I do the dishes my wife appreciates it. Whether or not she is aware that I washed them, she knows that the sink she just walked past is empty and that her time can be spent taking care of Jonah, doing something she wants to do, or perhaps most likely doing the next chore on the list. I can serve my wife in a very simple way and help give her a break at the end of the day. This is a good reason to do the dishes, but I am not sure that it is the most important reason I do the dishes.
Washing the dishes helps me to be less selfish, even if just for a moment. I am quite aware of how selfish I really am when chores, such as washing the dishes, need to be be completed in my house. If I were vocal about all of my inner thoughts and desires it would become quite clear that I prefer to live in a home where all of the chores were taken care of before I get home so that I can spend my evenings doing the things that I enjoy more than chores. This is a very selfish way of looking at my home, but if I am honest I must confess that I think this way often. So washing the dishes is just one simple way that I can actively fight against my selfish nature and be a servant to my loving family.
While my confession of selfishness is telling of who I am, I do not believe that I am alone in it. I believe that everyone is selfish as I am, regardless of how it appears to the public. So my honest advice is to wash the dishes as often as possible in your home. By doing so you will serve someone else (if you live with roommates), and you will empty yourself of selfishness for just a moment.