“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
Martin Luther King Jr.
My devotional study verse for this morning aligns well with today’s quote. If one is going to serve, you cannot ignore your gifts. You cannot overlook the opportunity to lean in and give your talents away.
“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”1 Peter 4:10 NIV
You can’t choose to be silent about things that matter because when you do, you are being selfish with the gifts and talents given to you. After all, why did you receive them if not to make a difference in the lives of others?
“If only you could sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.”
How easy it is to go through life in a transactional manner. We humans can focus on the give and take and lose sight of the impact of what we have to contribute.
If you were to sit down and think through the one thing you would like to ensure you imparted to every person you met, no matter how small the moment of meeting, what would that one thing be?
Figure it out, then do it. The opportunity to have an impact is waiting for you to seize the day.
“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”
William Arthur Ward
Think back over your life; who were the teachers, mentors, or coaches who helped you elevated your thinking or performance to the next level? How did they do this? What were their specific behaviors that impacted you? Why were they so profoundly impactful on your life? What specifically did they DO?
The answers to these questions will be unique and special to you and your life. Perhaps someone saw a talent within you that you didn’t yet see? Maybe they didn’t let you quit when that is all you wanted to do? Possibly they had a unique way of distilling the seemingly complex into a manner that just “clicked” for you. Regardless of how or what they did, they profoundly impacted your life through their behaviors and actions.
Have you taken any of those behaviors and built them into your life? Were you merely a recipient of someone else’s greatness, or have you become a conduit and multiplier and transferred it on to others? The beauty of great teachers is that they aren’t only elevating you; they are planting seeds to inspire and promote others within you.
It is an incredible gift to be the beneficiary of a great teacher. However, once taught, you must pass that teaching on to others. To clarify, I am not talking about the specific knowledge or expertise, but the method by which you were inspired to learn. This was the real gift you were given. Honor the one that gave it to you by finding a way to pass it on to others.
“The most worth-while thing is to try to put happiness into the lives of others.”
Over the past few days, I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support our family has received after Grayson’s passing. The calls, emails, and texts have been simply incredible.
It has served as a powerful and poignant reminder of why we are here on this earth. The purpose for which we were created isn’t to gather more stuff or capture more things. Life isn’t a giant monopoly game where the one with all money wins. Instead, we should view our lives as a spring of water flowing to give sustenance and love to others. Life is people and the relationships we build with those we come into contact with, whether for a moment or a lifetime.
If we aren’t spending the best effort and energy we have, giving away happiness, and being a wellspring of joy for others, we waste the precious time we have been given and miss the point of our existence.
Find someone to reach out to today and share happiness and love. In the giving of this gift, two will benefit…
“Spend a little more time trying to make something of yourself and a little less time trying to impress people.”
The Breakfast Club
This quote reminds me of the time I heard Jim Collins talk about his work with Peter Drucker. Jim shared that after working together for a few weeks, Peter pulled him aside and said, “Jim, I think you will find in life that you will be much more effective and impactful if you spend more time being interested instead of interesting. You can’t make everything about you.”
Now I am paraphrasing this since it has been well over ten years since I heard Jim share this story. It made an indelible impact on me, and I have written about this before, which you can view here.
Today, as I meditated and reflected on the quote above and the Jim Collins story, it strikes me that while the implied meanings are very different, ‘focus on self versus others vs. focus on others over self,’ the root cause is the same. “What do other people think about me?”
How much of our time, effort, and energy do we spend managing our lives to meet others’ perceived needs or expectations? How much of ourselves do we willingly give away based on the false hope that what others believe or perceive about me is the essential thing in life?
Instead of creating a life based on what others think about us, we should spend our lives threading the needle of meaning that exists between these two quotes. We need to identify and grow our own unique and special gifts and talents with the specific intent of bringing them to bear in a positive and impactful manner in service to others.
I believe this is why God created each of us and then charged us to serve and love our neighbors. We must surrender our egos and use our gifts to help others. Those that do this well are the truly awe-inspiring ones…
“Persistence and resilience only come from having been given the chance to work through difficult problems.”
Challenges are a gift. Getting knocked down is a benefit. Having difficult problems to solve is an opportunity to come back better and stronger.
It’s not always easy to remember this when you face something you don’t know how you are going to overcome. It can be all too easy to feel sorry for yourself in the face of adversity. But when the time has passed, and you can clearly see the benefits of having been knocked down and how you emerged better and more robust, you can look forward to the next big problem to solve.
Imagine how your life would be if you never faced adversity if there were no difficult problems to solve. You wouldn’t be the person you are today, and you wouldn’t have a strong foundation to build the person you were intended to become.
Embrace the trials and the problems and the challenges. It is only through overcoming that you can truly grow…
What is it that you give away freely to others? What do you guard with jealousy? Are you even aware of the things that you choose to share versus those that you don’t?
Perhaps a better question is; “what do others need from you that you could share with them?”
We have all received a multitude of gifts in our lives. Do we hoard those gifts or do we seek to enhance the world around us, and the people in our lives, by sharing those gifts freely and without any strings attached? Can we give without expecting something in return?
If we aren’t careful, we can live our lives on autopilot. The danger here is that by our very nature humans are wired to be selfish. To live a life of sharing takes intentional effort and focus.
Try this, make a list of things that you could do TODAY to enhance or improve the lives of the people around you. Pick just one thing from your list and then do it. It can be as simple as taking the time to share your gratitude for something someone else did for you. But be very specific and intentional in sharing your time, energy and gifts. If you do this every day imagine how different your world, and much more importantly, the world of others, could be in one year.
Sharing of ourselves is a privilege and a responsibility that we are all imbued with from the time we become self aware. If we choose not to share and give, we are sending a strong message to everyone in our lives that we value ourselves more than we value them. Is that how you want to live?
“Carry out a random act of kindness with no expectation of reward.”
Fear, doubt and worry are all ultimately rooted in self. What is going to happen to me? How will I manage if something bad happens? Granted, you might be worried about others and what the implications are for them, but the center of the worry is a focus on self.
Instead of devoting energy today to things that are outside of your control, instead focus on finding someone else to love. Give a part of yourself away. It can be as simple as a smile to another person to another person on the street, paying for the meal of the person in the drive-thru line behind you, picking up groceries for a neighbor that isn’t able to leave their home, etc.
The point is to intentionally and purposefully find ways to give a tiny piece of yourself away. Look for ways to do good. Seek opportunities to serve. Focus on what you can do for someone else. Not because of what you are going to get in return, but because we all share the same human condition of being slaves to self. Follow the principle Paul spoke of in his letter to the church of Corinth.
‘Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. ‘
2 Corinthians 9:7-8
Break those bond of slavery to self through fear, doubt and worry and seek to sow the seeds of love in your actions today.
“Don’t just count your blessings. Be the blessing other people count on.”
I had the amazing opportunity this past weekend to spend a couple days in Cuba and see a part of the world that is so different than the one that I live and work in each and every day. In a word it was INCREDIBLE, and not just because of the beauty and uniqueness of the place. What made it particularly impactful was the pride, friendliness and and authenticity of the people that we met.
Everyone we encountered wanted to share themselves and their country. I left so impressed with the people and our experiences. I left wanting to go again and do more for others who, while not having so many of the the things that we (and I) take for granted, lived life with great joy and pride. Cuba wasn’t just a county with really cool old cars, incredible architecture and landscapes. It was a country of people who have the same hopes, dreams, and desires that each of us have for our lives.
It really is amazing, when you see others who have a smile on their face, even when they have nothing compared to all the luxuries that we take for granted, it really puts things into perspective. We are so blessed. We have so many gifts and treasures that we can’t possibly count them all. I was reflecting on our trip during the flight home and I was thinking about the many blessings that I have been given in life. I realized how much more powerful it is to focus on being a blessing to another person instead of simply accounting for all that we have been given. Living your life as a blessing to and for others, not simply as an accountant for all the blessings we have received. That is truly living…