Amy Lanham

finding beauty in the middle of the mess

Category: Friendship (page 1 of 2)

The Price of Kindness

Have you ever had your kindness abused? I have. In fact, I have a particular friend that is the absolute kindest person I know and she has received her fair share of mistreatment over the years. She is always smiling, always encouraging, always helpful, and yet she has had people take advantage of her and be downright hateful. Some people are fake bubbly, but not this gal. She is the real deal, and my heart hurts to know that others have been unkind to her over the years.

I have always tried to be kind to others. Now, this isn’t to say I haven’t made my fair share of mistakes with people, but kindness has been my goal in life in general. The choices I made as a young girl/teen in school didn’t make me popular, but at least they made me generally well tolerated. If you asked a classmate back then how they would describe me, they would probably have said “nice.” I tended to befriend kids that other people wouldn’t. There were a few times my kindness actually made me a target of others’ ill intentions. Even now, as I have recess duty, I watch for kids who are being picked on or tend to be loners.

Recently,  I learned of a former student of mine who developed an eating disorder when she was in high school. This girl was beautiful, treated others well, and made the choice to be an excellent student and not party like some of her friends. Amidst doing the right things, she was ridiculed, ostracized, and made to feel “less than,” when in fact she was so much more. It is painful to make good choices, and then suffer for them.  We must remember that choosing to be kind is not always an easy choice. It will not always be favored by others.

Matthew 16:26 says, “And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?” We may be able to gain friends, status, wealth, etc., by being unkind. The question is, what do we lose in doing so? I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be kind and be able to look myself in the mirror than achieve the things the world deems important and be a jerk.

If you have kids, be sure they understand that kindness can come at a price, but it is a price worth paying. And, kids can be kind while not allowing themselves to be victimized. Even as adults we can find ourselves in situations where we wonder if treating others well is worth it. I wish kindness always reaped kindness in return, but sometimes that just isn’t the case.

“Kindness can become its own motive. We are made kind by being kind.” ~ Eric Hoffer

Blessings,

 

A Prescription for Happiness

What puts a smile on your face? I want you to think about it for a moment. And I don’t mean just a surface level smile, but those things that make you feel a little burst of something inside evoking feelings of contentment, joy, peace, etc.

Not long ago, my husband told me about a study done on the topic of happiness. Harvard’s Grant & Glueck study tracked the physical and emotional well-being of 268 male graduates from Harvard, as well as 456 poor men growing up in Boston from 1939 to 2014. They used brain scans, blood draws, and written surveys to reach their conclusions. After looking at 75 years worth of data, they concluded this: good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period. People in good relationships lived longer, experienced less physical pain, and had less stress.

I feel like the study told me what I already knew to be true, but some of us have to learn this the hard way. Our oldest son, Joshua, just had a conversation with us about the topic of happiness as discussed by one of his sixth grade classes. Now, we get rare glimpses into the life of this boy at school, so this was a major moment in and of itself. I’m going to write what he said in Joshua’s words as best as I can remember it:

“The other day we were talking about happiness in class. We had an assignment to tell about what makes us happy. Lots of kids chose things like gifts and money. But I know better. I said family and relationships are what make you really happy. There were a few of us that said that. I was sad for my teacher, though. She told us that she is struggling in her relationship with her family right now. She said that being with us is what makes her happy. In fact, she had a particularly bad day recently with them and it was even her birthday. Can we get her a Starbucks card? She really likes Starbucks.”

At this point, picture me crying in the passenger seat of our car as I thank God in my heart that our son is becoming an individual filled with compassion. And of his own accord! Jason was muttering to me that I needed to keep myself together.

Just the day before we had written out goals for our kids in the moms’ group I help with. Compassion is one of my top goals for my kids, and it brings me such joy to begin to see it as reality. Needless to say, we stopped at Starbucks before we even made it back home.

What was also interesting about the study, is that the quantity of relationships doesn’t matter. As long as you have one person that you can be close to and rely on, your chances for happiness increase. We are all created differently with a varied capacity for the number of people we can effectively manage in our lives. Just because your group of friends may be small, doesn’t make you any less significant, and it certainly doesn’t decrease your chance for joy.

Who can you bring a little bit of happiness today? The fascinating thing about giving is that you always get something in return when you give with a generous heart. The feeling of satisfaction that you have helped someone else just can’t be beat. Happiness can and does multiply.

Blessings,

What Empathy Looks Like

20150720-094414-35054588.jpg

Life caved in around her from every side. Years of trying to fix her own problems had reaped no success. My friend was desperate on the other end of the phone, and I had no idea how to fix things for her.

Isn’t that what many of us want to do for people? Fix things? Yet, so many issues are not within our control. So, what do you do when a friend or family member is so broken and you don’t have the right tools to make it better?

As I talked to my friend, I wanted to convey a picture of hope. I wanted her to have something to visualize that she could hold onto. I began to describe a picture to her that another friend had shown me years ago. It was a simple sketch of a person curled up in what was supposed to be the palm of God’s hand. The interpretation was up to the viewer, but I remember thinking how sometimes things in life are so bad that all we can do is curl up in a fetal position and allow God to carry us through. I encouraged my friend to simply rest and let others help her through her difficult time.

“Oh, Amy, I like that. And I will picture you there with me stroking back my hair,” she replied.

And in that very moment, I felt like I realized the picture of true friendship. That is what empathy is all about: sitting down beside our friend, stroking back their hair, offering encouragement, instilling hope. If we can do that alone for our friends, it is a job well done.

Recently, I read some of Job’s story in the Bible. The story tells us that Job lost his possessions, his family, and even his health. His three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar went to comfort him. “When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was” (Job 2:12-13). And honestly, that’s where is friends should have stopped, because when they finally opened their mouths they said all of the wrong things. All three of them began to insist that all of the tragedy surely had to do with sin in Job’s life. In chapter 42 verse 7 we read that even God got angry with Job’s friends for all they had to say.

Someone else dear to me shared some worries on her heart last week. I wasn’t sure how to respond, so I simply asked, “What would be most helpful? Do you just want me to listen right now, or would you like some advice?” Because it’s super frustrating when you just want to vent and the person tries to give you a list of all of the things you should be doing. Have you been there? If you aren’t sure, ask. Otherwise, it is probably best to keep your opinions to yourself and just be present. That’s where Job’s friends got it right. They showed up. Too bad that wasn’t the end of the story.

I want to close with one more example. I work with a fabulous group of moms on Friday mornings during the school year. One of the ladies posted a prayer request for some health issues she was experiencing, especially in the midst of planning for her daughter’s birthday party with family coming to visit. The moms chipped in and provided food for the lunch and money for pizza for dinner. The party was planned and taken care of in a matter of hours. We can’t heal her heart, but we can come alongside and make the journey a little less stressful.

I am tremendously grateful for those friends who have simply shown up for me over the years. God takes care of us through his people.

What a privilege it is to sit alongside someone in their pain and attempt to ease even a little portion of it. Much thanks to my friend, Milet, who drew the amazing picture above so I could send it to my friend as a beautiful reminder of God’s love for her.

From my friend~ Willow Tree Sunshine~ "Friendship brings the sun...and flowers bloom."

From my friend~ Willow Tree Sunshine~ “Friendship brings the sun…and flowers bloom.”

signature

Older posts

© 2018 Amy Lanham

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑