How We See Others

If you’re looking for a feel-good movie this holiday season, I recommend you check out Wonder.  It’s a story about the challenges of a 5th grade boy who was born with some birth defects that resulted in a scarred and unusual looking face.  Beyond his struggles in school, Wonder is a great story about the capacity we all have to choose what we see in those around us.

What made this movie so touching was how a few of the kids at his school began to look past this boy’s disfigured face and see the positive attributes he possessed.  Once they focused beyond his appearance, they soon realized that he looked less like a freak and more like a friend.

While we may not be 5th graders any longer, we still have the choice in how we see those around us.   Let’s be aware of the opportunities we have to see beyond the appearances of those around us, and to focus on the things that matter, like character and kindness.  Because wouldn’t we like to be seen the same way by others?

See What’s Inside

A Few years ago, my wife and I started looking more closely at nutrition labels on packaged food.  Specifically, we started paying attention to the ingredients to see what’s actually inside some of the food we were consuming.  We were shocked!

It was, and continues to be amazing to us how foods that are packaged as “healthy” or “good for you” can contain so many ingredients to the contrary.  Simple foods you’d expect would only contain a couple of ingredients often contain so many ingredients, many of which we can’t even pronounce.  We stopped eating foods with longs lists of ingredients we couldn’t pronounce.

The lesson we learned is that if we want to know if something is good for us, we need to make the effort to read the ingredients in order to “see” what’s inside, because a quick glance at the packaging can be deceiving.

I think it’s like that with people too.  We often can’t tell what someone’s like just from appearances, because appearances, much like food packaging, don’t always give an accurate picture of what’s inside.  A quick glance at appearances will tell you very little about:

  • Character
  • Integrity
  • Attitude
  • Mindset
  • Compassion
  • Beliefs
  • Ambitions

To get a glimpse of what’s on the inside of a person we need to pay attention to their:

  • Speech
  • Habits
  • Interactions with others
  • Actions
  • Responses to different scenarios

Just like knowing what’s inside the food we eat, so we can make good choices, we should know what’s inside the people we’re surrounding ourselves with.  And while we’re at it, wouldn’t hurt to take a look at ourselves to know what’s inside of us as well.

It’s Happening Now

This week I saw the following statement on someone’s T-shirt:  “Enjoy it because it’s happening now”.

I love this timely reminder!

With the beginning of a new year, it’s common to focus on goals and what we plan on doing in the upcoming weeks and months of 2017.  While looking ahead and planning are indeed both important endeavors, it’s equally important that they not occur at the expense of enjoying the good things we’re experiencing in the present moment.

It seems to me that we create our history, our memories, our relationships, and even cement our legacies by how we choose handle what’s happening to us in each moment.

What kind of memories are we creating when we’re overly focused on the future?  What kind of relationships are we creating when we’re too distracted slow down and connect with the people we love and care about?  How will we be remembered by the people with whom we have the pleasure of crossing paths with?  Will they feel like we were looking over their shoulders to see what was next, or will they feel like we actually cared about and were interested in them?

Once gone, a present moment cannot be recaptured.  We can’t go back and extract enjoyment we left on the table from a moment that has already passed.  We must be mindful to enjoy what’s happening right now.

 

Words

Would you ever walk around deliberately throwing pointed darts at people, hitting them with a club, or punching them in the gut? Of course not!  In fact, if we did, we’d likely get arrested!  Yet everyday people are equally, if not more, careless with the words they choose to launch at others.

Words are interesting because they don’t have any preference on how or for what purpose they are used.  They are amoral and only become positive or negative based solely on how we choose to wield them.

Look at the contrast between the attributes of positive and negative words:

Positive Words Negative Words
Encouraging Discouraging
Affirming Tearing down
Loving Hateful
Caring Hurtful
Compassionate Condemning
Healing Crushing
Life saving Hopeless
Enduring Enduring

 

Our words have an impact on people, especially on those closest to us.  And though they can be positive or negative, they are often not soon forgotten.

This underscores the importance of the awareness we should possess regarding the words we use and how we’re treating others with them.  Are we being careless with our words or are we using them to encourage and edify others?  If we could see a visual representation of the words we’re delivering to others would they resemble sticks, darts, clubs, and stones, or would they look more like a smile, a pat on the back, a high-five, and a hug?

We do have a choice regarding the words we use.  They leave our lips wrapped in our intentions.  Let’s intention to deliver positive words that bless others versus cursing them.  When we do, we’ll likely notice that the words we receive from others are kind and positive as well.

It’s Time to be Intentional

How many times has a scenario similar to this happened to you?  You’re talking with a friend about something fun you’d both like to do and someone says, “That sounds fun!  We need to do that!”  You’re both genuinely interested in the event, and have every intention of scheduling a time to get together and make it happen.  But you get busy and the event, along with everyone’s excitement about it, gets pushed to the back of everyone’s mind, where it is soon forgotten until the next time you get together with this friend and the topic comes up again… and the cycle continues.

This was the same cycle me, my wife, sister, and brother-in-law have been in for several years regarding a day trip to Oregon’s Fruit Loop in the Hood River Valley.

Hood River Oregon is known for its agriculture, specifically apples, pears, and peaches.  (Once you’ve had a Honey Crisp apple from Kiyokawa Family Orchards you’ll be spoiled for life!  No other apple will ever compare.)  The Fruit Loop consists of a bunch of farms, orchards, and wineries in the area that sell produce and other regional goods they produce.  While the Fruit Loop is open most of the year, for my wife and I, fall is the best time to attend.

hoodriver

Anyhow, my wife, sister, brother-in-law and I finally decided that September 24, 2016 would be the day that the 4 of us would at last go to the Fruit Loop together.  It turned out to be a perfect day!  The weather was sunny and in the mid-70s with spectacular views of Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams.   We picked Honey Crisp apples right off the tree, sampled delicious seasonal fruit, along with jams, jellies, and pastries, and ended the day with a late lunch at Mt Hood’s Timberline Lodge.  A beautiful end to a fantastic day!

This trip reminded me about the importance of being intentional about making events like this happen.  It’s too easy to just say you want to get together with folks and do something special, and then never make it happen.  However, but I would argue that it’s also pretty easy to get out the calendar and pick a day make it happen.  Being intentional is not that hard.  Especially when we realize the positive impact it can have on our lives.

What about you?  Are there activities you’d like to do that you’re putting off for no good reason, or people you’ve been meaning to connect with that you never get around to putting on the calendar?  If so, I encourage you to go get your calendar or send an email to those you’ve been meaning to connect with and set a date to make it happen.

It’s time to stop being too busy and start being intentional.

Superman Wasn’t the Only One Affected by Kryptonite

For Superman, Kryptonite was that one thing that rendered him ineffective and sapped all his strength and power.  For me, it’s shots, blood draws, and other minor medical procedures.

I don’t know what it is, but these things cause me to freak out.  And by “freak out”… I mean pass out!  No joke!  I’ve passed out after a tetanus shot, from having blood drawn for lab tests, and the worst of all, having my finger pricked for a health screening at work.  That just happened this Tuesday.  Fortunately for me the medical professionals I’ve been around during these occurrences have been very kind and understanding.  I hope they get a good laugh out of the experience as well!

My latest “adventure” Tuesday got me thinking:  I’ll bet everyone has their own form of Kryptonite they deal with.  It may not be shots or medical procedures.  Perhaps its public speaking, snakes, or even clowns (I’m surprised how many times people have told me they are really freaked out by clowns!).  Whatever it is, we’re not at our best when our Kryptonite is present.

I’m trying to respond better when my Kryptonite is present (translation:  trying not to pass out when I go to the doctor), but it’s proving challenging, as evidenced by last Tuesday.  For me, I’ve found that the best thing I can do when I’m around Kryptonite is to tell the safe people around me about it.  I have found that when folks know, they are compassionate and helpful.

I’ve also learned to be understanding of others when they experience their own form of Kryptonite.  No matter how silly or unreasonable their Kryptonite may seem to me; it’s very real to them.

I’ll admit, passing out over shots and having your finger pricked is kind of silly.  After the fact though, it makes for a funny story to share with others and always generates some laughs.  Sharing our Kryptonite experiences with someone else is also a great way to be vulnerable and build connection with others, especially when they’re sharing their Kryptonite stories with us.

Seeing Beauty

My wife and I recently made a visit to Crater Lake National Park.  Although we had been there several times before, (we’re fortunate to live relatively close to this gem) I was once again captivated by the overwhelming beauty of this natural treasure.

Crater Lake

A video playing at the park’s Visitor Center described how the natural beauty of Crater Lake that we see today is the result of a very violent volcanic past.  A severe eruption of Mt. Mazama left the area looking like a “moonscape”, as described by the park video.  However, years of wind and weather have transformed the once barren site to the beautiful lake we see today.

The beauty of the lake is unmistakable.  It got me thinking that there are people who are a lot like Crater Lake.  Not that they have “off-the-charts” physical beauty, but rather they have beauty that comes from a decision to choose a positive response to a significant “eruption” in their own life experience.  For example, they choose to:

  • Be victorious versus defeated.
  • Focus on what they are grateful for versus what they’ve lost.
  • Encourage others facing the same or similar experience.
  • Live their life with purpose regardless of past circumstances.

These, and similar choices, to past “eruptions” in life make for a beautiful person.

Seeing physical beauty in nature, like Crater Lake, is easy.  However, seeing beauty as a result of people’s difficult life experience is not always as obvious.

As we’re interacting with others, let’s remember that we’re often not aware of what they have experienced in life.  And, if you’re ever blessed to have someone share their past “eruption” with you and how they have chosen a positive path forward… stand in awe at the beauty before you.

Shared Experiences

On Wednesday June 15, 2016 I left an organization I was with for almost 19 years to pursue a new and exciting opportunity.  In the days prior, as I was reminiscing about my time there, my thoughts were not primarily centered on accomplishments and successes, but rather on the people I’d worked with and the memories we’d made.

While I was going around saying my good-byes to friends and colleagues I noticed that they too were recounting shared experiences.  I couldn’t help realize that the shared experiences we have with others are what people remember.  Whether the experience was good or bad, the fact that it was shared in pursuit of a common goal seemed binding and provided a sense of team, connection and togetherness.  I like that because it shows that I didn’t go through my 19 years there unnoticed, and that I had an impact on the people I worked with, as they also did on me.

Shared experiences not only bind and connect people in the context of the workplace.  Have you ever sat around with a friends or family members recalling events of the past with laughter, gratitude, frustration, or even disbelief that you all made it through?  Often, it’s these kinds of conversations that we have with friends or family we haven’t seen in a while as a way to reset the relationship and begin reconnecting.

As we bump along with others in our day-to-day existence let’s make sure we’re mindful of the shared experiences we’re creating and when the time comes, remind others of the experiences we’ve shared with them and what they meant to you in that experience.

The Investment of Time

Tuesday afternoon I went to visit a good friend that I hadn’t seen in a few years.  We spent several hours talking about what we are currently doing, what we had been doing recently, and reminiscing about shared history.  My friend’s son also joined us, and the 3 of us had a very enjoyable (and sunny) spring evening shooting the breeze on the front porch.  It was a great time!

That experience again reminded me how valuable time is and how similar it is to money.  Both can be wasted on things of little to no value or they can be invested in something that yields a great return.  The big difference between time and money is that we can always get more money.  Time squandered cannot be made up or recaptured at a later date.

This thought is sobering, and causes me to be intentional about making sure I’m investing significant portions of my time in things that yield a good return in my life and the lives of others.  So what does investing our time look like?  It can take the form of:

  • Consuming good books, spiritual text (the Bible for me), blog posts, podcasts, or any other content that improves your thinking, expands and enhances worldview, or develops your character.
  • Connecting with people who build you up, encourage you, and cause you to strive to live a better life.
  • Learning a new skill.
  • Being active on a daily basis in order to ensure a healthy body that will function properly for many years to come.
  • Connecting with people who could use your encouragement, support, skills, and experiences.
  • Supporting causes and people you believe in.

The options for investing our time are numerous!

Just like with money, we are not required to invest our time in things that will yield a lasting return.  Our time is ours to do with as we please.

I think it’s important to make sure that we are indeed making significant investments of our time over the course of our lives.  How sad it would be to look back at the end and see a life defined by the mishandling of our time.

Let’s Not Lose Sight of Reality

I was listening to a podcast yesterday about Augmented Reality (AR) and the role it will play in our lives in the future.  Similar to Virtual Reality (VR) AR involves wearing a set of goggles that allows you to see things that aren’t really there.  The difference between AR and VR is that while VR shows you a view of an environment that doesn’t exist, AR allows you to see your actual environment, but also shows you things or people that aren’t physically present.

For example, I could be wearing AR goggles and look down at my wrist and see a wrist watch, even though I’m not actually wearing a watch, or I could see a flat screen TV or computer screen on the wall that isn’t really present.  In addition to objects, you would also be able to see people, who were also wearing AR goggles, as if they were in the same spaces as you, even if they are miles, countries, or even continents away.  It sounded pretty amazing!

The host of the podcast went on to talk about the application of such technology and how it could transform everything from how people attend conferences, train for skills, and even attend Thanksgiving dinners with family.  In his opinion, this technology was about 3 years away.  He made that comment that when this technology becomes available, it will very shortly begin impacting all of our lives.  One comment he made was that once this technology is mainstream, we will likely feel naked if we leave the house without our AR goggles.

That last part struck me, and has haunted me to some degree since hearing it.  I think AR and VR technology will be amazing and will have significant application and promise to improve many aspects of our lives.  However, I also see how it can further isolate us from one another as humans, much like our smartphones have the capacity to do today.  If we as users of this technology are not wise enough to put healthy boundaries around its use, I can see how we could easily become a society that is more focused and interested in the things in our lives that are NOT real, while neglecting the things (and people) that are.

Let’s take a lesson from the adoption and impact the smartphone has had on cultures today.  As new technologies become mainstream, let’s be aware to set boundaries around their use; boundaries that are designed to maintain, and hopefully strengthen, the relationships we already have with those around us.   It would be a shame to think that we would rather gravitate toward a piece of technology over interacting with people that are present in our lives.  But as history has shown us, if left unchecked, that is exactly how we would lean.