Three and a half years ago I wrote a blog post that resonates so well for me today it’s frightening. There’s no doubt that the more things change, the more they stay the same. The post starts as follows:
I’m a glass-half-full person by nature, but every once in a while the pervasive bad news leaves me with a heavy heart. The past few days have had that effect, with the ongoing reports of senseless bombing in Syria, continuing famines in the Sahel region of Africa going hand in hand with the unfathomably brutal internal conflicts in Sudan, and other stories of unimaginable horrors. In our part of the world, I despair that so many people in positions of leadership find it easier to point fingers at each other than do the right thing and be part of a solution. We lead by example, and too often the examples are not providing lessons that should be emulated. Man’s inhumanity to man sometimes overwhelms me, despite many examples of improvements in the human condition. I have to keep reminding myself that we are a work in progress.
OK, enough of that. Instead, let’s consider what makes us feel good about the world around us. For most people, being treated with respect is high on their list. And if someone greets us with a smile as well as respect, it’s almost impossible not to smile in return. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” never fails. Why do we keep forgetting that?
This old post goes on to talk about examples of good customer service and how it is completely a win-win situation for people to be nice to each other – everyone feels good and business is more successful – but yet it is no more common than common sense. The post ends with:
We all have choices in how we approach our work, regardless of whether we are in sales, service, teaching, management, or any other function. We live in a stressful world, where we can encounter many frustrations every day, and it is easy to get angry and point fingers. But anger begets anger and this makes us all losers. If, instead, we take a deep breath, give people the benefit of the doubt, and show by example a constructive way to overcome an issue, everyone stands to benefit. The same thing applies to life outside of work. What can we do, aside from choosing to frequent places that provide good customer service? How about leading by example? People might just follow your lead!
And this former conclusion brings me to a related issue that is causing me continuing distress at the moment: people are good at articulating what they don’t like and what they don’t want, but not nearly as good at saying, “how can I help make things better.” People like to look to a leader to solve all the problems, some of which are nearly unsolvable and many of which are beyond his or her control. But I get that; we live in hope and, considering what some leaders get paid these days, in some ways our expectations are not without reason. The part that I do not get is why so few good people are prepared to go beyond complaining and finger-pointing. Why so few people are prepared to be part of a solution instead of expending their energy to exacerbate the problem. Why do people prefer complaining and being angry to following examples of kindness and mutual respect? One of my heroes, Pope Francis (and I’m not Catholic), must be asking himself that of his colleagues in the Church establishment!
Is it this trait in mankind that has Donald Trump still in the running in the Republican nomination race? My glass is not looking as half-full as I’d like it to be at the moment.