|Read more articles by Don Huntington|
WHEN YOU LOOK FOR THE BAD IN PEOPLE, EXPECTING TO FIND IT..., YOU SURELY WILL. (BEN FRANKLIN).
People tend to live “down” to our expectations for them, as Ben Franklin pointed out. This powerful realty is shocking in its effect. For example, when parents shout at a child, “You are so stupid!” and “You will never amount to anything!” they often create dark channels in which the child’s diminished self-esteem will continue to flow, no matter how many resources the subsequent adult will expend on therapists and religion.
A terrible reality is that critical and negative messages actually bring out the worst in the people being criticized. If I have the opinion that certain man is stupid, for example, he will inevitably continue to do apparently stupid things. President Regan, for example, did incredibly stupid things in the opinion of people who thought he was stupid; President Obama is doing unbelievably evil things in the opinion of people who think he is the antichrist.
The beauty of the principle behind Ben Franklin’s quote, however, is that it works just as powerfully in the other direction. We can lift the spirit and behavior of the people around us simply by going to what is good in them. The truth is that the worst person in your life has some admirable qualities that you could go to if you were only willing to do so. Furthermore, you will certainly improve the person’s attitude and behavior by going to whatever commendable skills, qualities, and accomplishments he/she possesses rather than focusing upon their shortcomings and failures.
An unpleasant truth is that many people will refuse to lift another person in this simple fashion because they believe the person’s offenses to be so great that he/she doesn’t deserve acceptance or recognition. You see that clearly in politics. A number of President Bush’s (pick either one) and President Obama’s enemies have such implacable hatred that they couldn’t find one good thing to say about whichever president they vilify.
An ancient proverb catches both sides of the issue: “Hatred stirs up dissension,” the Bible says, “but love covers over all wrongs.” We’ve all seen examples of hatred causing strife and discord but many people miss that last principle: the role that love can play in covering over errors and even sin. President Lincoln, who during his life was horribly vilified as any American president, provided a moving illustration of using the principle that I am talking about for good when he famously said, “I destroy my enemies when I make them my friends.”
I know from experience how powerful the principle is because on many occasions I have, myself, become better or done better than I imagined possible simply through the influence of people around me who acknowledged my good qualities. Even more importantly, however, is that I’ve learned through innumerable experiences that my connection with others greatly improves when I approach them as though they are honorable and worthwhile human beings.
The effects of Franklin’s principle verge on miraculous. I don’t think I have met anyone in the past decade on a deep level that I failed to admire for some quality or other. As a result, my days overflow with individuals who exhibit amazing resources of virtue, skills, and spiritual strength. In many cases they come to realize my regard for them and that realization has a positive effect on the quality of our relationship. Such people sometimes eventually come to trust me enough to permit me to assist them through some difficult personal issue they are facing. Or maybe they never arrive at that place where I can touch their lives. I cheerfully accept that because I’m not accountable for the decisions that other people make; I’m only responsible to embrace them with affection and even admiration. I leave all results and outcomes in the hands of Heaven.
Without any doubt, expressing the kind of love for others that covers their wrongs is the right attitude for me to take because that is the way I wish others to behave towards me. I should forgive a person even for something truly unforgivable because I would wish others to forgive me no matter how far short I may fall from deserving forgiven.
We can keep the Golden Rule for a perfectly selfish reason. An unforgiving spirit cannot exist in a mind at peace. As a result, I intend always to forgive and never to judge because I am not willing for my spirit to be riled up by negative energies caused by the least resentment.
If you want to breathe new life into your marriage and other relationships, join me at Dr. Don’s Marriage & Relationship Boot Camp. August 16 from 8:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. We’re going to gather for good fun, lively interaction, and tasty food at Trilogy’s beautiful Abby’s Kitchen. We’ll help you learn how to get along with anybody and to keep falling in love with your life partner. These few hours are guaranteed to change you for good and forever. Only 20 couples! Don’t miss out! Sign up now online at libertyadultededu.org/regform.html (course # 070200), go to Liberty Adult Community Education Center, 929 Second Street, or call 925-634-2565.)