I felt the need to expound a bit on a post I published to social media yesterday, so here goes. I’ve found as I’ve gotten older, that common sense is not common practice and that there are things I know in my heart to be true and good and decent, that others may not find so commonplace. I don’t know if it has to do with emotional differences, or maybe it’s the chemical make up in our brains, but we all go through life seeing it through different eyes. For me, it means an opportunity to meet and get to know people who are different from myself, grow and learn from their experiences, and gain invaluable knowledge. There’s so much to learn, know and understand from other people- their unique experiences, beliefs, values, upbringing, trials, challenges and accomplishments… it has nothing to do with where they were raised, where they live, how much money they make, their occupation, the color of their skin, or their political and religious beliefs…. none of those things alone define a person, we are all made up of SO MUCH MORE. Everything I’ve been through in my life, how I’ve handled challenges- combined with my upbringing, influences from friends and family over the years, my education and teachers, the jobs I’ve held, the relationships with friends that have formed (and those that have faded into the past), the things I’m passionate about, the values I live by- everything that I’ve been through, and will go through, is a part of who I am. But you can’t see all that just by looking at me. We all have stories, experiences, memories… a richness hidden beneath our skin, in our souls, that we choose whether or not to share, and with whom to share it with. But you cannot see this just by looking at a person’s skin color. You have to go deeper. You have to take time to understand and get to know people, and that starts with a desire to do the work involved. You have to WANT to get to know people.
My husband is a guarded person, especially in comparison with me (who wears her heart on her sleeve) which can make it difficult to make new friends. Most of this is precautionary and protective- he won’t let just anyone into our home and into our lives. He has to get to know them first and he is really good at reading people. When he likes someone, there is this thing he says… “They are good people”. I believe that words and phrases have staying power, and this phrase has really stuck with me through the years. I find myself using it more often these days. You know these people… the ones you meet and can tell immediately that they are genuine. They are confident in themselves (whether you like it or not) but there is a kindness in their eyes and in their words that speaks worlds. They are strong and opinionated, but not because they heard something somewhere once, but because they do the research every day, question everything and then decide where they stand. They are slow to speak but quick to listen and quick to act because they want to evaluate each situation in its entirety to ensure that the time they spend helping others is spent well. They are the kind of people who really listen to you and make you feel heard and understood. Oh, and another thing? The majority of the time, they’ve been through some shit. Real shit. Shit that changes your life and either breaks you or forces you to grow and learn. These people have put themselves back together and learned to embrace the fact that life will continue to deal them shit situations but they will continue to grow. These people come from all walks of life and this means that we have friends from all walks of life. I am not sure how they would all get together at a party, but that’s not why they are our friends, they are our friends because we know them and care about them individually, and would do anything to support them, stand up for them and fight for them because they would do the same for us.
We live in a time where we have thousands of Facebook friends that we “know” but how many of them have you really taken the time to understand? to listen to? to support? to have conversations with? Do you scroll past their photos everyday and that’s where it ends? Do you voice opinions on social media and delete people when they disagree with you OR do you work to have genuine conversations about why they disagree or feel the way they do? Do you take other people’s opinions into consideration? This does not mean you have to change your stance on an issue, if anything, it will allow you to have more knowledge for forming your own opinions. Knowledge has the opportunity to be a powerful thing but it cannot be one sided, you cannot turn off the faucet once you have made a decision or taken a stance, you should continue to learn, grow, educate yourself, listen to others, and challenge your own opinions. One difference in opinion should not keep you from getting to know someone. There are so many amazing, wonderful people out there but you have to put in the effort to create REAL relationships and real community. The powerful feelings created by community are hard to describe! The support that you get by supporting others will always be worth the effort. So, when in doubt… support each other, love each other, protect each other, check in on each other, listen to each other, stand up for each other, and above all strive to be a GOOD HUMAN in everything you do.
Spread love, spread kindness, spread joy, lift each other up, get involved in your community, have conversations with people with different life experiences, seek out a community of friends who may not always agree with everything you say, but love and respect them and LISTEN to them despite that. Keep in mind that real conversations aren’t about debating or WINNING. It’s about listening and conversing and getting deeper. It is not about voicing your opinions and why you are right… it is about getting to the root of your beliefs and your why- only then will other people truly begin to understand where you are coming from and vice versa. You cannot understand why people feel so strongly about certain things without finding out why they feel that way… deep down.
Don’t jump on a bandwagon pledging to “listen” for a week to people of color- this is something you should strive for every day of your life! Seeking to connect with people- listen to, love and respect them because they are fellow humans, not because of the color of their skin, where they are from, where they live, their thoughts and opinions on politics, life and religion or the fact that there’s a social media movement to do so… do it because that’s what good, decent humans do. Please don’t just pledge to listen for a day or a week and then “move on to the next thing”… instead, strive to live your life in this way everyday. We all have to be better, kinder, more supportive, more passionate, more inspired, more willing to go out of our way to help, protect and stand up for others. Reach out today, show support in the ways that you can and take some time to reflect on what’s important in this life and how you can be a better human. If you actually made it all the way through this, thanks for reading, I just wanted to take a moment to share what was on my heart… I’m sending love out there into the world right now to anyone who needs it… 🧡
We should all live our lives with the goals of being the best person we can be and striving to improve in areas we may struggle or be lacking. So, here are a few concrete steps to take for self-improvement and ways to be a better human overall:
- Be a better listener. This can be more difficult than you would think, mostly because our phones, social media and instant communication have trained our brains to be distracted. It doesn’t help that as humans we tend to be selfish in general and want to share our own experiences. Practice asking questions and being silent and actually listening to people (rather than already planning your response or your own relatable story that you will break in and share once you find an opening). I am a talker by nature, so being a better listener is something I am always trying to improve on!
- Stop making Excuses. Take responsibility for your actions! Be honest and take the time to apologize when you are wrong (and practice forgiveness when other wrong you). Holding grudges, fostering feelings of anger & resentment, being sneaky, lying, blaming others for your mistakes and gossiping are all things that can bring detriment to your relationships with others. YOU are to blame for your own actions and YOU have the power to make change and be better!
- Get Involved. I am talking about getting active in your community and getting hands on with a local charity in any way you can. Donating money is nice (and aften needed) but there is something VERY different about donating your time and your service to help others. Be an ACTIVE part of your community- shop local, get to know local business owners, advocate for your businesses and schools and neighborhoods. Get to know your neighbors. All of these things will not only help you build a stronger sense of community around you but will also help you feel like a part of something bigger and more important than yourself.
- Acknowledge your Prejudice. When you react or have a gut feeling about someone immediately without knowing anything about them, it’s often based on something you’ve seen or experienced in the past. Prejudice causes you to think all “those” people are the same and as humans, we all tend to have prejudicial tendencies. What do we do about them? First step is to acknowledge your prejudices and find out where the feelings came from, the sources could be anything from family and friends to books, movies and TV. The second step is to reach out and spend more time with people who are different from you. According to Gail Price-Wise, President at Florida Center for Cultural Competence, Inc., “the more exposure you have to a group, the more you get to know individuals, the weaker the prejudice becomes“.
- Be KIND. Need I say more? Surprise people with your ridiculous levels of kindness.
- Be grateful for what you have. Practicing gratitude is an easy way to be a better human overall. It can lead to improved mental strength & emotional health, better relationships with others, increased ability to have empathy for others and higher self esteem! Practice taking time each week to write down three things you are grateful for.
- Give More than you Take. In everything you do, be sure that you are giving to others more than you are taking from them. This goes for professional and personal relationships as well as time spent in your community. Find ways to help others and don’t do it with the expectation of receiving something in return.
Until next time, please spread love, kindness and care to those around you. Take a little extra time to reach out to your friends who may be hurting or struggling and remind them that you are there for them (and actually BE THERE for them when they need you). Send the card, make the phone call, answer that text, get involved and live to give more than you take.
x The Pink Sheep x