Archives for posts with tag: gentleness

My twelve year-old granddaughter is a very positive and happy person. She wants to talk and hear about positive things. At times I understand that she is simply naïve but I appreciate the fact that she has a positive outlook and wants to see the best in everything and everyone. And she tries very hard to be the best person she can be.

Recently I heard a response to the question of why the news media seem to always report only “bad” things. The reason given was because “bad news” is not the norm. There are far more stories of “good news.” The exception to the rule makes something newsworthy. Therefore tragedy, hostility, and other unseemly attitudes, words, and acts are reported because they are the exceptions.

I am not sure that is actually the reality but it is one perspective and possibility.

One of my teachers had a saying that bad news goes around the world twice before good news gets its shoes on. It certainly does seem that bad news travels faster than good news. Word of a robbery seems to spread much farther and faster than a report of a random act of kindness. Road rage makes the headlines but the many motorists who are patient and tolerant are seemingly absent.

I am often reminded that we see and hear what we are looking and listening for. Our ears perk up at juicy gossip and our eyes widen when we see something unseemly.

Today as I was driving I saw blue lights flashing in the distance. Instinctively I slowed down and expected to see an accident or someone receiving a ticket for violating the traffic laws. Maybe even a person being arrested for some criminal act.

But I saw something very different. Two police vehicles were diverting traffic around a stalled minivan and two officers were changing a flat tire for the driver of the stranded automobile. That was a surprise but a welcome sight. The officers were white and the motorist was black. The officers were male and the driver was female.

There are so many reports these days about white law enforcement officers inflicting violence on black citizens and headlines about men exploiting women. Nothing that I say here is intended to make light of these incidents. Violence against any human being is never justified and is even more detestable when it comes from persons in authority or from racist and/or sexist attitudes.

The experience I am reporting is meant simply to remind us that acts of kindness, generosity, gentleness, mercy, and respect occur all the time. We must not allow the “exceptions,” as horrible as they are, to lead us to believe that civility and human dignity have disappeared from our society. That charity and hospitality are things of the past.

What I saw today also sensitizes me to situations where I can be helpful. It reminds me to pay attention to those around me who might need assistance or support. It helps me to remember that no good deed is small. It aids me in focusing on others and not to be so self-centered. It reminds me to look for opportunities to “live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward (me)” (Matthew 5:48, The Message).

Jamie Jenkins

 

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The pursuit of happiness is one of the “unalienable rights” which the Declaration of Independence says has been given to all human beings by their Creator. However, happiness is often considered elusive and fleeting. Nathaniel Hawthorne said that “happiness is as a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but which if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.”

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Recent research suggests that happiness can be attributed to three major sources: genes, events and values. Data suggests that if we understand them we can improve our lives and the lives of others.

According to the researchers, data on happiness remain fairly consistent. Arthur C. Brooks reports in the New York Times that every other year for four decades, roughly a third of Americans have said they’re “very happy,” and about half report being “pretty happy.” Only about 10 to 15 percent typically say they’re “not too happy.”

Although there are demographic differences that can affect the statistics, about 48 percent of our happiness is inherited from our parents. Studies further suggest that isolated events control up to 40 percent of our happiness at any given time. Social scientists say that we can control the remaining 12 percent if we pursue four basic values: faith, family, community and work.

The website www.lifehack.org offers another formula for happiness: Letting Go + Acceptance + Gratitude. This suggests that the best things you can do with your life is to “let go of what was and what will be and be okay with it, thankful for it, and appreciate it.”

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In a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers at University College of London have provided another formula for happiness. They created an equation that accurately predicted the happiness of over 18,000 people. Participants in the study completed certain decision making tasks. Then researchers used MRI imaging to measure their brain activity and asked them repeatedly, “How happy are you now?” This testing resulted in the following equation:

FORMULA FOR HAPPINESS

You will have to do your own research to figure out what all that means.

The suggestions based on studies that are offered above are worth considering, but I commend the following to you as a formula for happiness that I think will work.

Rev. Bill Britt, Senior Minister at Peachtree Road United Methodist Church in Atlanta, offered another formula for happiness in his sermon last Sunday.* He based it on Philippians 4:4-7 in the Bible.

  • Be gentle
  • Don’t worry about anything
  • Pray about everything
  • Be thankful for all things

Actually Rev. Britt gave only three steps. I have added one: Be gentle. The Message translates those two words in verse 5: “Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them.”

This formula sandwiched between “The Lord is near” and “the peace of God which passes all understanding will guard your hearts and minds” offers a simple but effective process for pursuing happiness.

Jamie Jenkins

*Rev. Britt’s sermon can be viewed at http://www.prumc.org