Be kind to one another

Also – report on IFL trip to Israel

World Kindness Day is celebrated annually on November 13. On this day, participants attempt to make the world a better place by celebrating and promoting good deeds and pledging acts of kindness, either as individuals or as organizations. What a wonderful program.

My eight-year-old grandson’s school promotes and celebrates the day. When I picked him up at school, I saw this poster his class had made. 

Kindness is the foundation of civility, peace, accord, and community. It is the oil that lubricates human relationships. Without it, human alliances get rusty, mundane, tedious, and eventually break down. 

The opposite of kindness—cruelty, intentional harm, malice, animosity—are certainly detrimental, but even the mere absence of kindness—neglecting to be kind to others—can cause harm. 

The Bible includes kindness in the list of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). The Apostle Paul simply says, “Be kind to one another” (Ephesians 4:32).

Most acts of kindness are simple and don’t take a lot of time or money. And they’re not hard to identify; even Ben’s second-grade classmates came up with a good list. I challenge you to make your own list of at least 12 ways you could show kindness to people you will encounter today. And then do them. You and the world will be better off for it. 

Never underestimate the impact that one simple act of kindness can have. The following story is my all-time favorite illustration of the power of a kind deed.

The South African bishop, Desmond Tutu, was once asked why he became an Anglican priest. He told this story, “In the days of apartheid, when a black person and a white person met while walking on a footpath, the black person was expected to step into the gutter to allow the white person to pass and then nod his head as a gesture of respect.

“One day, when I was just a little boy, my mother and I were walking down the street when a tall, white man, dressed in a black suit, came toward us. Before my mother and I could step off the sidewalk, as was expected of us, this man stepped off the sidewalk and, as my mother and I passed, tipped his hat in a gesture of respect to her. I was more than surprised at what had happened, and I asked my mother, ‘Why did that white man do that?’ My mother explained, ‘He’s an Anglican priest. He’s a man of God, that’s why he did it.’ When she told me that he was an Anglican priest, I decided there and then that I wanted to be an Anglican priest too. And what is more, I wanted to be a man of God.”

Desmond Tutu, along with Nelson Mandela, were largely credited with the abolishment of apartheid in South Africa. Perhaps that one act of kindness he experienced as a child set the course of his entire life of service to others.

Today, and for the rest of your life, be kind.

Israel 2023  

Mary and I just returned from a terrific trip to Israel hosted by Insight for Living. I had the privilege of leading worship when we gathered at The Southern Steps, Garden Tomb, Mount of Beatitudes, Sea of Galilee, and other venues. Everyone should go to Israel at least once, and when you go, travel with Chuck Swindoll.



Emotional intelligence: a key element in close friendships

My eight-year-old grandson Ben is becoming friends with Max—a ten-year-old boy who lives near our Lakehouse. I enjoy watching their friendship develop. 

We go to the Lakehouse about two weekends a month so their time together is spotty and limited but they have developed a healthy and solid friendship. 

One important feature of their friendship is that both boys posses and demonstrate an amazing level of emotional intelligence. Most adults don’t possess the EQ that these boys have.

For instance, recently Ben said, “Max it’s good to see you again. I wasn’t out here last weekend because I had a birthday party I had to go to.” (Thus reassuring Max that their relationship is important and durable).

I noticed that when Ben and Max play soccer, Max (who is older and larger) doesn’t kick the ball as hard as he can or make the moves he could; he scales back his play to Ben’s level so Ben doesn’t feel inferior or frustrated.

This is astonishing. How did they learn to be so emotionally attuned to each other? Who taught them the subtleties of relating to others in a healthy and nourishing way? 

I want to use their relationship to introduce a broader topic—the importance of emotional intelligence—and an even broader topic—multiple intelligences (MI). 

In 1983, Howard Gardner published a landmark book: Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences in which he suggested that there are multiple ways a person can be intelligent (or unintelligent). Prior to Gardner’s book, IQ was considered the only measure of intelligence, but he suggested five other areas of competency. 

Multiple Intelligence (MI) 

      • Abstract intelligence – symbolic reasoning, logic (IQ)
      • Practical intelligence – knowing how things work and how to get things done
      • Emotional intelligence – being aware of, and properly responding to, the emotional world
      • Aesthetic intelligence – a sense of form and design, expressed in literature, the arts, music, and other holistic experiences
      • Kinesthetic intelligence – whole-body competence such as sports, dance, or flying a fighter jet
      • Social intelligence – properly assessing, and relating to, social environments; social awareness 

The most familiar assessment, IQ, is perhaps the least accurate indicator of success in life. Most people have enough IQ to function well in life; only a few professions require extreme IQ (rocket scientist, mathematics professor).

Of those six types of intelligence, three of them (abstract, aesthetic, and kinesthetic) are basically innate—your aptitude was set at birth and there’s not a lot you can do to improve. To some extent, practical intelligence can be developed, but for sure, emotional and social intelligence can be increased through study and practice.

To be successful in life, which of the six types of intelligence are most important? Interestingly, the two areas that can be developed: emotional and social intelligence. Granted, if aspire to be a professional athlete, you need to score high on the kinesthetic scale. If you want to play in the New York Philharmonic, you better excel in aesthetic intelligence. But for most professions, high EQ and SQ are the most important. To do well in life you need to be emotionally and socially intelligent.

Isn’t that interesting: the only areas that we can improve through study and practice are also the most important.

Back to Ben and Max. I predict that, individually, they will do well in life and that they will enjoy a lifelong friendship.

Most people don’t notice you. This fact will either disappoint you or give you peace.

Most of us are overly concerned about what people notice about us and what they think of us. For instance, we may spend an inordinate amount of time choosing what we’ll wear, convinced that most people will notice. We’re worried that we didn’t talk enough or talked too much at a business luncheon.

To some degree, this is to be expected. Because each of us is the center of our own universe, we focus on ourselves and think other people do too. Because we are so focused on our own behavior, it’s hard for us to assess how much or how little our behavior is noticed by others. Tom Gilovich, a psychologist at Cornell University, has studied this issue for years, and his research helps us think clearly about this.

In a 2000 study, Gilovich conducted an experiment in which he asked students to enter a classroom, filled with their peers, while wearing a Barry Manilow T-shirt. At the time, this was not a cool thing to do; the students were embarrassed to be seen wearing the T-shirt. After the encounter, the students estimated that 50% of their peers noticed the Manilow shirt and probably talked about it to others. But when questioned, less than 20% of their peers had noticed.

Gilovich demonstrated the same exaggerated misperceptions in other studies, such as group discussions about social issues. In one study, Gilovich reported that students also badly overestimated how well their own gaffes and clever arguments were noticed by others in discussion groups. 

The bottom line is: We’re not as interesting as we think and other people don’t notice us nearly as much as we think they do.

This fact will either disappoint you or give you peace.

If you delight in being the center of attention, if you have narcissistic tendencies, if your sense of value and self-worth come from the attention and admiration of others…you’ll be disappointed to learn that most people don’t even notice you or care what you are doing.

But this insight should actually give us peace. We don’t need to live our lives feeling like we’re constantly walking down a model’s catwalk. We can cease worrying about what people think of us because they seldom do.

Years ago I had a mustache for about 10 years. The day I shaved it off I anticipated a lot of comments. My wife and children didn’t even notice. I should have learned this lesson that day. 

What does a cup holder and a 220-volt car charger have in common?

I have a friend who appreciates fine cars and has the money to buy whichever car he wants. I’m happy for him. Recently, he was choosing between a Lamborghini and a Ferrari. He chose the Ferrari because it had a larger cup holder. Details are important.

Sometimes I listen to the CarPro guy on the radio. Every week he drives a different new car and then gives a review. Recently he drove an all-electric Honda SUV. In his review he basically said, “The vehicle is amazing. What irritated me was, it didn’t come with a 110-volt charging cord, just a 220-volt cord. I don’t have a 220 outlet in my garage so I had to find the nearest Honda dealership and buy one. Why didn’t they include a 110 cord?” He kept talking about the one irritating aspect of his experience with the Honda. Details are important. 

Everything that is made is a compilation of small details and they’re all important. Remember the Space Shuttle O-ring disaster? Details.

Some small details have an oversized influence on the final product. I’ve been on a quest to make the best carbonara  in the world. One important detail is to serve the dish in heated bowls, otherwise the egg and cheese begin to congeal. Details.

I’m not sure how someone develops an eye for details. Is it an innate gift or can it be developed through training? (I lean toward the latter.) 

Attention to details takes time but it’s time well spent. It produces a better product or service and helps eliminate costly mistakes. 

Charles Eames, famous American designer and architect, once said, “The details are not the details. They make the design.”