Take a moment and think about the last time someone you knew well mustered up the courage to ask you for help. No doubt, you displayed kindness, and probably empathy as well. As a matter of fact, my guess is that these behaviors came naturally to you because you sensed that person’s vulnerability. That’s how good people treat others they care about, and I’m going make the assumption you’re a good person.
So, let’s stay with the assumption, and go a little deeper. Another trait often found in good people is an inherent generosity to others. Even if these people don’t know those who are reaching out for help, it’s not uncommon for these good people to be generous with their time, their words, and even their feelings. Generosity manifest itself as thoughtfulness that good people tend to extend to everyone they know… well, not exactly everyone they know.
There’s a wonderful scene in one of my all-time favorite movies, Defending Your Life, a 1991 American romantic comedy-fantasy film that illustrates this point. The film is about a man who finds himself on trial in the afterlife. Written, directed, and starring Albert Brooks, there is an exchange between the Daniel Miller, the person on trial in the afterlife, and his defense attorney Bob Diamond. This attorney asks him about his acts of generosity in his former life. After listing various examples of generosity, he nervously asks his attorney if he had done enough for others. Without missing a beat, his attorney tells him this:
Bob Diamond: There was one person you were really cheap with. Over and over again. I wish you’d been more generous with him.
Daniel Miller: Who?
Bob Diamond: You.
Sometimes, it seems that we have the most difficulty being generous to ourselves. There is so much we’re happy to do for everyone but ourselves. For instance:
- When we talk to those who are struggling, we tend to increase our level of compassion. When it’s us who are struggling, we tend to increase our level of disappointment.
- When we provide actual feedback about how to improve to those we care about, we tend to balance that feedback. We do this to spare the other person’s feelings, and because it provides our best opportunity to create progress. When it’s us who need feedback, we tend to heap on the negatives, provide little to no positives, and crush what little spirit we have.
- When others make mistakes, we tend to display empathy, and provide a lending hand. When it’s us who make these mistakes, we tend to look at ourselves with disdain and disappointment.
This isn’t the first time I’ve written a piece that involves how tough we are on ourselves. Perhaps one of the reasons I seem fascinated with this topic is because, like many, I can fall into the same trap. But, by golly, you and I need to stop it! We deserve the same level of kindness, generosity, compassion, balance, and empathy we provide others, particularly when things aren’t going as well as we’d like. It’s the least we can do. So, here goes:
Well said, Rob!
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