At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel. ~Maya Angelou
I start most mornings with some spirituality-based reading and over the past several years this has included the works of the late-John Templeton. Better known for the investment fund that bears his name, after his retirement Templeton wrote several philosophy and religion books overflowing with spiritual wisdom.
What’s compelling about Templeton’s work is that his spiritual teachings can often be immediately incorporated into your daily life. I recently ran across such a teaching, one I found so essential to living a more compassionate, connected life, and so easy-to-do, I thought I would share it with you. His idea starts with a simple premise:
Each of us walks through life engaged in our own personal ministry.
While the term “ministry” is often used in regards to religion, for Templeton it takes on a broader meaning. Our ministry encompasses “the way we live our lives—how we handle situations, our values and ideals, our goals and the way we strive to attain them.” But most importantly, our ministry revolves around “how we treat others.”
Templeton believes that the key to the success of your own personal ministry, and the success of your life on this earth, relates to how you interact with the people around you. How do you connect with those you encounter each day? What type of messages or signals do you give them? Do make them feel special or a little better about themselves? To that end, he advises us to:
“…reach the hearts of others and give them something of vital value, something that will broaden and enrich their lives. Desire that every person be open and alive to higher inspirations and filled with a beauty and truth so splendid that it elevates his or her soul.”
Well, that sounds well and good, you might say. I do want others to feel good. But how do I go about elevating the people I come across in my everyday life?
Fortunately, Templeton gives us a very simple guide to follow. It consists of three key action words we can act upon each day, with each person we encounter:
I personally began using the acronym REP to remember the first three letters of the words Recognition, Encouragement, Praise. And for me, the meaning and intent behind these words can be simply explained. It starts by walking through life alert and aware, then taking three actions:
Recognize those you know, and even those you don’t, with eye contact, a warm smile and when appropriate, a “hello” or friendly greeting. Take the time to stop for a chat and most importantly, to listen.
From that point, you can take the next step and add encouragement or praise to the mix:
Encourage those who need a kind word, who appear to be having a rough day, who need to be uplifted. This can be as simple as a “keep up the good work” for the garbageman or silently wishing all you encounter happiness.
Praise those who are doing something/anything of value, even if it’s complimenting the barista at the coffee shop or commenting on the smart fashion choice a coworker made that day.
Think you can’t do it? Templeton tells the story (also found in the book Spiritual Literacy by Frederick and Mary Ann Brussat) of a woman named Maxine F. Davis, who has a job that is both hectic and stressful—she’s a cashier. Yet her personal ministry involves helping others feel good on a daily basis. According to Maxine:
It’s the manner in which I present myself to others that will determine whether my customers will leave the store feeling better or worse because of their brief encounter with me. By doing my job well, I know I have a chance to do God’s work too. Because of this, I try to make each of my customers feel special. While I’m serving them, they become the most important people in my life.
As Templeton points out when you discover and develop the abilities of others, you’re not only helping others. At the same time, you’re helping yourself. And the fact is, it feels good to help others feel good.
R.E.P. Recognize. Encourage. Praise. Three simple words that when put into use each day, with each encounter, can actually help you become a better you—and help the world become a better place, too.