Tag Archives: #kindness

# 42 Respond to Anger With Kindness and Compassion


orange-dot              You do not have to respond to anger with anger.  You can respond with kindness and   compassion.  In my work with couples and families, parents and children, I often help people move away from defensiveness, a common problem, and toward understanding and empathy.   I sometimes script responses for them on note cards:  “I didn’t know that made you so upset.”  “Wow.  It really bothered you.”  “Now I see how important that is to you.”  “I’m sorry if I offended you.” “Thank you for your honesty.  Now I know how much that means to you.”  For the speaker, it is the first time they have not been defensive.  For the receiver of the message, it is validation that they have finally been heard.

Recall the words of St. Francis of Assisi.

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

where there is doubt, faith;

where there is despair, hope;

where there is darkness, light;

and where there is sadness, joy.

Today, recite this prayer in the morning and again in the evening.  Consider how you may apply it to your encounters with other people today.  If you can, practice one of these scripted responses.

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# 30 Surprise Someone With Praise

pink-dotimagesCAQDJLN1     Over twenty years ago I was in a video store with my husband and young children checking out films, a very ordinary event.  A man in a straw hat walked by me with a big smile and said, “What a handsome family!”

The man, a stranger to me, surely forgot about the remark by the time he drove out of the parking lot.  Yet the compliment meant so much to me that I still recall it.  It costs so little to make an enthusiastically positive statement to another person–a few seconds.  Yet the comment may make that person’s day, even be remem-bered by the person years later.

I have tried to continue his surprising act of praise.  When a sales clerk has done a good job I  have asked for the manager and praised the clerk to her manager.  When I  have been helped with a difficult insurance claim by a claims processor, I have asked for the person’s supervisor’s address and sent a letter of praise.  Recently I read a report that had been written by a professional in another city eight years previously and was so impressed by it I tracked her down through a Google of her place of employment. I sent her an email commenting on what an excellent job she did.  She was shocked with gratitude.

Look for an opportunity today to make a positive remark to a complete stranger–the bus driver, the store clerk, the worker who makes your deli sandwich.  Record in a notebook  what you did.  Note the person’s reaction.  How did you feel?

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#16 Take a Community Walk


Take a walk today, a long walk.  Andrew Weil recommends regular walking as a step on the road to “optimum health.”  I live in the midtown area of a large urban metropolis.  It is an area where young urban professionals rub elbows with college students, gay couples, and homeless men.  Renovated Victorian homes are nestled among lofts, apartment buildings, trendy restaurants, and shelters for the down and out.  Though there are trash baskets every few blocks, there is always much litter on the ground–mostly beer bottles, empty cigarette packs, and fast food bags and cups.

Do you live in an area like this?  Besides getting your exercise, you can turn your walk into an exercise in altruism.  Here’s how:

  • When you see a newspaper in your neighbor’s driveway, or especially if you see several, take them up to the steps.  Your neighbor will appreciate it and wonder who put it there
  •  Pick up the trash on the street and put it in the trashcans along the way. If you’re worried about getting your hands dirty, bring a plastic bag, wear gloves.  People might look at you.  They might be inspired to follow your example.
  • Give the homeless man on the corner three bucks for lunch.  If you’re worried about what he’ll do with the money, bring gift certificates from a nearby fast-food restaurant instead.  Pass them out.
  • Wave to the bus driver and/or the letter carrier as you pass them along your route.

Record how your felt.  What else did you think to do on your “community walk”?

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# 7 Be a Cub Scout

Cub Scouting (Boy Scouts of America)

Cub Scouting (Boy Scouts of America) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

pink-dotIn  Cub Scouting, the Scout who earns a badge must wear it upside down until he does an “unasked for favor” for someone in the family.

  • What unasked for favor have you done for someone lately?  What  might you do today?  Wear a pin upside down today until you do an unasked for favor for someone.  If you don’t get a chance today, do it tomorrow.  If you don’t have a pin, wear your watch upside down.  Don’t wear a pin or a watch?  Change the ringtone on your smartphone until you perform your unasked for favor.
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# 2 Reflect on the Ripples in the Stream

pink-dot                                                                                     Prow in the water.jpg

That the five bystanders all came together in a synchronous effort to save this man from imminent death was nothing less than a miracle.  What they did with the experience was even more enlightening.  For Carla Chelko it was a chance to redeem the horrific memory of her brother’s death a year earlier from a heart attack, after her efforts to save him failed.  Plunkett went on to help Chelka’s son raise money for his missionary work in Africa.  Following the publicity of the event, Dr. Davis received a stream of gratitude from people, something he rarely ever got in his medical specialty of anesthesiology.  Dr. Winston, the resident, took the experience as confirmation that cardiology would be his life’s work.  For Dr. Gott, the incident gave his life a sense of meaning and purpose.  Wheeler, the paramedic, won a lifesaving award for her part in the drama.  The memory of that day helps her ward off the tough-minded cynicism that comes with a daily stream of muggings, shootings, and child abuse she is witness to in the big city.  “Something like this makes you a stronger person,” she said.  “It’s made me think, ‘How can I be a more positive person?’ “ 

*  The result of the coming together of these people in an act of moral beauty that transcended the moments and hours it took to save this man from certain death.   The effect was like the wake of a boat as it moves across the stream   You create a wake that moves outward, creating currents that impact the water and the creatures around you.

Consider this for a few minutes–that your simple act of kindness and compassion might not only affect another person deeply, but  that the effect of that act may move outward to affect other people in indirect ways.

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#1 Reflect On An Act of Moral Beauty



On July 4 Don Plunkett was one among the pack of 55,000 runners who set off to run the annual 6.2 mile run known as the Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta.  For those readers who have not lived here in the deep South, the weather in the middle of the summer is especially hot and humid.  He had just crested the hill at the 5 mile point when he collapsed.  The 58 eight year old man was lying motionless in the roadway, not breathing.  Carla Chelko, a physical education instructor, stopped immediately, pried his mouth open and started rescue breathing.  Right away two more runners stopped, both of them doctors.  Dr. Lee Davis, an anesthesiologist, began mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.  Dr. John Gott, a cardiothoracic surgeon, performed chest compressions.  Next on the scene was a paramedic, Arthur Kaplan, who rushed over with life-saving gear.  With supplies from Kaplan, the four continued to work on Plunkett, but to no avail.  He was turning blue.  Christy Wheeler, another paramedic, arrived within three minutes with a defibrillator.  The first two shocks didn’t get a response from Plunkett’s heart which had stopped.  She cranked it up to the maximum setting.  The third shock resulted in a heartbeat.  The crowd cheered.  Later that day Dr. David Vega and Dr. Dan Winston performed Plunkett’s triple bypass surgery at a nearby hospital.  Plunkett not only survived but came through with no permanent damage to his heart.  It was an amazing coming together of caring and resources, like links in a chain.

Behavioral scientists refer to this kind of event as an act of “moral beauty.”  Studies show that when people witness others being kind to strangers they experience an emotion of elevation.  People have described it as a warm, uplifting feeling  of expansion or floating, typically felt in the chest,.  We feel a welling up of emotion like a wave passing through us.  Scientists do not know yet how and why the human brain processes this information and sends out these signals to the body.

Jonathan Haidt conducted research in which he asked people to write about “a specific time when you saw a manifestation of humanity’s ‘higher’ or ‘better’ nature.”  The participants described themselves as surprised, stunned, and emotinally moved.  The feeling of elevation made them want to do something for others and to become a better person   They described a sense of love for others and a desire to be with others.

I first read about elevation in 2001 and have continued to find it a compelling subject.  Since then many tragedies have occurred all over the world–the 911 attack on the World Trace Center, the tsunami in Indonesia, earthquakes in Mexico, terrorist attacks in Europe, the school shootings in Connecticut, the tornados which hit Oklahoma only recently.  While devastating, all these events are also stories of courage, sacrifice, heroism, and determination.

For many years scientists have theorized that altruism is genetically wired into human beings.  We give up personal interest to help others because, in doing so, we insure the survival of the family, the clan, and the community.  Is elevation also built into our DNA?  Did it evolve to help us overcome grief, to lift us up to our higher, better nature?

For today, onsider acts of moral beauty which you have witnessed–people stopping to help a driver who is stranded, a stranger stopping to return a lost or injured dog. Or consider one you have heard about–the firemen who went into the World Trade Center, the teacher who put her body over the children in the closet of the classroom during the school shooting, the man who jumped onto the subway tracks to retrieve another man who had fallen there.  Be lifted up by it.


APA.  2001, July/August.  Templeton Positive Psychology Prize goes to Jonathan Haidt of U. of Virginia.  APA Monitor on Psychology, Hiskey, M.

“God Tied People Together.” July 3, 2002.  Atlanta Journal Constitution. C1, C2.

Haidt, Jonathan.  2000, March 7.  The Positive Emotion of Elevation.  Prevention and Treatment. 

Photo from the AJC Peachtree Road Race page on Facebook.

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