Section 2: INCREASING THE GOODNESS IN OUR LIVES
YOUR LIFE’S IMPACT ON OTHERS
Thinking about How Your Life Influences Others
We seldom stop and give any serious thought to how our life influences others. We’re just too busy with our own stuff to think or worry about how what we do or say impacts others. However, regardless of circumstances, our life—what we say, what we do, and how we live day-to-day—influences those around us in some way. So the important question for you and me is this…is our influence a good and positive one?
A life is not important
except in the impact it has on other lives.
Our choices have ripple effects, spreading out and touching the lives of those around us. When a student chooses to study hard and make good grades, the effects ripple outward and can be seen in proud parents and admiring teachers and friends. When an adult makes the choice to participate in the local weekly feed-the-homeless program, family members and friends take note of the goodness this imparts. Silent though it might be, behaviors like these create respect and they encourage others to consider doing similar things.
On the other hand, when someone chooses just not to care or to be impolite, often devoting more time to sarcasm than showing a sincere interest in others, the ripple effects are unspoken reactions of people who silently decide they don’t want to be around a person like that. We live our lives “in view” of other people, and, as such, our words and actions affect others in both positive and negative ways.
So, while our personal choices are important to us, we should look beyond ourselves and consider the impact our choices have on other people. Which brings us to one of the more important questions concerning how you are living your life: Are you living your life primarily for yourself, or are you living it to help others as well?
Far too many of us approach life and our daily routines almost exclusively focused on ourselves. We make choices by considering what we might get out of it. However, the real satisfactions in life come not from living in this self-centered way, but in being mindful that we are here to help others as well.
They who give have all things;
they who withhold have nothing.
The Ripple Effect
Take a Good Look at Yourself
Truthfully acknowledging the real impact that your life is having on others is not simple or routine. We tend to think of ourselves as “a good guy” and don’t see a real need to stop to think about how our life is impacting those around us. We assume that our words and actions don’t really matter that much to others, one way or another. That old saying applies here…if we could only see ourselves as others see us.
So, how are you and your life impacting those around you? If you stop and think about your interactions with others over the past few years, your life will answer this question for you. If you have encountered more than your share of problems or conflicts with those around you, it’s apparent that you are living your life for yourself…and people are reacting to that behavior. If you are bringing selfishness, negativity, or conflict to others, they are most likely struggling to even be around you.
On the other hand, if people tend to pull you in and show that they want to be with you, it’s almost a certainty that you are showing that you care about them. In other words, how you
make the other person feel determines their view of you. Maya Angelou, the acclaimed author, explained it this way:
People will forget what you said,
people will forget what you did,
but people will never forget how you made them feel.
Where Is Your Focus?
Are you approaching other people in a sincerely helpful and caring way?
Are you almost totally focused on what’s important to you?
To make life work well, you should focus less on yourself and your wants and more on the needs and happiness of others. If there is a secret to living a successful life, it must be showing more concern for others than we show for ourselves. Les Brown, the well-known author and speaker, outlined the benefit of living this way:
Help others achieve their dreams
and you will achieve yours
You should note that focusing on the needs of others is not a natural or easy choice to make. We are preconditioned to look out for ourselves. Our society has taught us that we are competing with others and should work to be “at the top.” But you can look out for yourself with part of your life and look out for others with part as well. We can and should practice self-care—and address such things as eating well, learning as much as possible, resting, and exercising. Also, we should seek a career that fits in with our life’s purpose. These things aren’t selfish…they are necessary. But it’s when we leave out the part about caring for others that our life gets off track, doesn’t seem to work well, and doesn’t bring us any real sense of satisfaction.
Your life touches many people each day. Whether the impact of those encounters is positive depends on the degree to which you help others and make them feel you care about them. Kindness is very powerful. It draws people to you and encourages others to follow your example.
If you choose to make other people’s lives better, even in small ways, your life will be better as well. That’s just the way life works. Another Hindu proverb explains it rather well.
Help thy brother’s boat across,
and lo thine own has reached the shore!
Name someone who has had a positive influence on your life.
Why does this person stand out to you?
Have you been kind and shown respect to the people you have been around this week?
Briefly describe your conduct in this regard.
What is one thing you can or should change that will help you
be a kinder and more caring person in the future?