The Positive Power of Self-Reflection, Compassion, and Kindness

Every human is miraculously living a unique life.  Yet, together, bonded by a cause for shared greater good, we can change the world.  That power is awesome, and its potential is yet to be realized.

Landon Foody
Class of 2021
The University of Tennessee College of Law

Hello.  My name is Landon Foody.  And I am a guy who could be voted “Least Likely to Write a Leadership Blog Post.”  Putting these words on a digital page—and then deciding to share them with others—is something that makes me extremely uncomfortable.  I am not someone who is usually outspoken, but I woke up this morning with a strange need to speak my mind on our current world.  I fought it all day, but it kept coming back, and the more I talked about it, the more I realized I had to overcome the anxiety that comes with writing and posting these thoughts, which come in the form of a stream of consciousness.  Sometimes, the time to step outside your comfort zone just comes, and you take it.  So, here we are.

We live in a wonderful, beautiful world that gives us so much to appreciate.  Life as we know it has given all of us opportunities to put good back into the world.  The opportunity is particularly striking for those who have chosen and are pursuing a career in law.

Yet, there are inescapable tensions and pressures that can make it difficult to fulfill the promise of that opportunity.  Although we all stand in different shoes, walk different paths, and lead different lives, we all have the gift and power to choose how we act every day.  All of us, as humans, deal with our own struggles, whether they are known or unknown to those around us.

You, looking into the mirror, just like every other human around you, see those struggles, as well as your hopes, wishes, and dreams.  Really think about it; hit pause for a moment and reflect.  Throughout your life, young or old, you have been through SO MUCH.

Each of us, every single human you see, lives a life full of both promise and hard decisions, successes and mistakes.  They all influence us, whether we know it or not.  Today, this past week, the previous month or year, the last decade . . . .  What we all experience is unfathomably diverse and unique, yet we are equal in the time we share experiencing all of these things. 

Can you imagine what it would be like to grow up, from before the time you can remember, to the present moment as someone else – anyone else, even your closest friend?  You might be able to conjure up an observation or feeling, based on what you may know or assumptions you may make.  But just like no one will ever know your life, thoughts, and influences, you will never know theirs. 

So, with each time you walk down the street, enter a restaurant, comment on a photo, send out a tweet, please—please—I ask you to think about how you, walking across from you, down the same street, seating you at the restaurant, would feel if you were on the receiving end of your own conduct, as if it were received from someone else.  You never know what may be going on in the lives of the people with whom you interact—what may be behind what the world can see, just as so much in your life is hidden to others.  Imagine walking down the road toward someone who looks up and smiles.  It doesn’t matter who they are, it feels good. You get a little pep in your step.  You think: “Dang do I look good?”  Whatever it is you carry that forward with you—think about creating that positive feeling in others.  It’s that easy, and it can go so much further just as easily. 

Try this.  The next time you are that person someone is passing walking down the road or anyone else, just the same as that person can show compassion and kindness to you, show your compassion and kindness to that person, even (and maybe especially) if you know they have suffered failure or let you or others down.  Give humans the chance to be human.  Do not expect that they always will be at their best; understand that we all are flawed.  Throughout our lives, we never know what might cause a change, change someone’s day, or be just what someone else may need.  At no cost to us, we can all seek first to listen, then understand, and, finally, think before we act.  Recall all those times you have thought “Can I just catch a break?” or “Can something just go right?” or “Why is this happening?”  We wish for someone to give us that break we need, to give us that little slap on the butt saying “You got this!”—in general, to give us the feeling that things are going to be okay. 

In every aspect of our lives, especially now, we all have an opportunity to make a choice every day that could have limitless impact.  A choice of paying forward a personal sense of gratitude and hope through our compassion and kindness.  Imagine being in line to purchase something and finding out someone had decided to pay for it—the happiness, the undeniable contagion that is that feeling.  You want it, and you know some part of you wants to be able to give that feeling to someone else. That same feeling can come from something as simple as a smile, a hello, a simple compliment—anything that gives that feeling of: “I see you, you see me, we are both living this life, and we are not alone.”

No matter any difference we may have, no matter what may fuel us every day, no matter if you think someone else is wrong and you are right.  Take a pause.  Remember the complexities of your life and how you would hope someone would care enough to understand you before they chose to judge you. 

As we are all unique and incredible in our own capacities, I hope we can all find a shared kindheartedness and understanding that we all live a life here together on this Earth, literally floating on a giant rock surrounded by nothing and more rocks, filled with things we cannot control, circumstances we never chose, being birthed into a random life somewhere, someplace, in some time.  Think about this: we could have been having this same conversation 500 years ago.  Yet, it is truly amazing we are where we are right now, able to do all of what we do through digital, as well as personal, means . . . . 

We have been through A LOT, evolving as humans to where we are now.  Not so long ago, we all were without electricity, cars, the Internet, and mobile phones.  The human race has come a long way and will always have more to learn.  But now, more than ever, we have many opportunities and means to share the blessings of our differences with one another. 

At our core, we humans are all not so different.  We want happiness, prosperity, and success in whatever fashion we imagine it.  Our imaginations may be different, but the fact that we share all of this world is a common element.  To love and enjoy your world to your full capacity, think about how that same love and joy is uniquely crafted in someone else’s world.  

Every human is miraculously living a unique life.  Yet, together, bonded by a cause for shared greater good, we can change the world.  That power is awesome, and its potential is yet to be realized.

So, wherever you are, put the whole world aside for a moment, think about who you are, and then put yourself in someone else’s shoes.  Would you not want the same goodness you want to receive?  Give someone else grace for their mistakes like you would want for yourself.  Act on the impulse to offer loving kindness to others.

I know no one can fully understand anyone else’s struggles, but we can all understand wanting happiness and goodness.  Be that person who makes a positive difference in the lives of others.  Try it.  Ask the cashier how their day is going instead of just getting your stuff and moving on.  Look someone in the eyes, smile, and thank them for whatever they have done.  Give a random compliment, praise someone’s efforts, whatever it may be, give someone a reason to smile and feel thought of, feel important, anything at all, because it can only result in good that could transform into so much more good. 

I know we can all do it, because we can all want it.  What is the harm?  Being able to say you tried, you gave extra effort—being able to at least say that instead of doing nothing at all—may itself offer rewards to you and others.  Strive to say: “I added some good to this world.”  Feel how good it feels to know you might have made someone else, even for a moment, experience goodness.  Do it for yourself and for everyone else.  Because giving of your heart does good for you and is likely to do good for so many others. 

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