My dad used to tell me that you can learn something from everyone you meet. You don’t have to like everyone you meet, but if you have respect for that person as a fellow traveler on this planet, I submit that Dad was right. He was right because there is good in everyone. Heavenly Father gave us all unique and special talents. While I might never understand my neighbor, or why he/she acts a certain way, it is important that I look for the good.
Looking for the good in others helps us grow and learn. The talents that my ornery neighbor has may be just the talent I need to develop, but if I don’t overlook the orneriness, I’ll never be capable of learning from this person. Too often, we want to teach (or preach) the orneriness right out of our neighbor while overlooking the talents she/he has to teach us.
This is especially true when it comes to social media. Behind the safety of the computer screen, most of us feel this need or drive to always be right. Somehow we feel if we argue our point enough, everyone else will just surrender to our great intellectual mind. We rarely consider that others out in cyberspace may have intellectual abilities themselves.
Pounding out our opinion on the keyboard becomes much like pounding a metal stake into the ground with a sledge hammer. We have lost the ability to listen and learn. The problem with trying to force our opinions on others is that we stop growing and learning.
What if we look for the good in others?
When I look for the good in others, I make great discoveries. I not only discover that people besides me have opinions, but I find joy in discussion. Intelligent two-way discussion is one of the best learning devices available. I would rank it right behind temple worship and scripture study. Discussion is becoming a lost art. I grew up discussing everything around the kitchen table.
No subject was taboo. Maybe one of the consequences of families not enjoying meals together is that we have not learned the simple art of discussion. Discussion helps us see the good in others, which in turn teaches us a whole list of other things—compassion, understanding, seeing the world through the eyes of another, critical thinking, observation, and good manners, to name only a few.
Looking for the good in others builds relationships. If we walk around thinking that everyone else is stupid, we find ourselves pretty isolated eventually. Nobody wants to be around a person who doesn’t listen, interrupts, and always has to win an argument. Discussion isn’t meant for winners and losers; it’s meant for building respect.
People often surprise me. First impressions can be wrong. If I had relied on the first impression of my husband, I would never have married him—yet we just celebrated our 40th anniversary. My husband may have made a very awkward first impression on our first date, but he is a very good man. I shudder to think what I could have missed out on if I had not looked a bit deeper than that first date.
Looking for the good in others helps us to develop good qualities in ourselves. Many years ago, I had a coworker who was a real thorn in my side. There wasn’t a day that went by that I didn’t want to scream. This person had some very good skills, and I was determined to bite my tongue and be teachable. Looking back, while I learned skills that helped me on the job, the best thing I learned was tolerance—with some perseverance thrown in. After working with this person for a couple of years, I found I could work with anyone.
Can we be grateful to someone we don’t like?
An attitude of gratitude goes a long way in this world. Grateful people are happy people. When we are able to sit down with pencil and paper and list the good qualities in those around us, it makes us grateful to have them in our lives.
Even those people we don’t particularly like, or who we have some personality conflict with, will find a way into our hearts. We will be grateful not only for what they can teach us, but for the role they play in our lives.
There are several people who have played important roles in my life who have also been the most challenging individuals for me. I have learned from each of them. I have grown from the experience of dealing with them. Character traits have been embedded in my soul from dealing with them—even if it wasn’t easy.
Tolerance, patience, long suffering, negotiating skills, turning the other cheek, and learning to hold my tongue are things that don’t come natural to me. Yet, I’ve learned from dealing with these challenging and often irritating people those character traits. Maybe that is why our lives crossed paths in the first place. Heavenly Father knows what we need to learn here on earth, and possibly the difficult people in our lives were placed there so that as our lives meshed, we could gain the knowledge, experience, and lessons that He wants us to learn.
As we look for the good in those around us, we will grow in ways we never thought we could. This week, try it out. Have a note pad handy to write down the good qualities you see in others. Don’t skip over difficult people, as they will be the ones who can teach you the most.
For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone.—Audrey Hepburn
Tudie Rose is a mother of four and grandmother of ten in Sacramento, California. You can find her on Twitter as @TudieRose. She blogs as Tudie Rose at http://potrackrose.wordpress.com. She has written articles for Familius. You will find a Tudie Rose essay in Lessons from My Parents, Michele Robbins, Familius 2013, at http://www.familius.com/lessons-from-my-parents.