There have been a lot of challenging circumstances lately. World pandemic. Economic crisis. Culture crisis of racial injustice. People are struggling. Overwhelmed by the layers of anxiety. My mother could get COVID-19. My husband lost his job. My neighborhood is protesting. My friend is hurting. My country is divided.
And then there is social media screaming – “Do you care?” The pressure is immense.
So what do we say when asked the question, do you care?
The standard response: “Of course, I care….”
The honest response: “I do care, but my actions do not always evidence my care.”
The vulnerable response: “I want to care better, if I only knew how…”
I have never met anyone who said they did not want to be a caring person. But I have met many people who did uncaring things towards other people. In fact, at some point in time, I think that is true of every single person. And as our mom’s told us – our actions speak louder than our words.
The fact of the matter is — caring is really hard to DO.
• Have you cared for a newborn infant who is inconsolable at three in the morning?
• Have you cared for an elderly parent with dementia?
• Have you cared for an angry customer at work?
• Have you cared for a loved one dying of cancer?
• Have you cared for a foster child?
• Have you cared for neighbor without family?
• Have you cared for a person struggling with mental illness?
If you have done any of these things, you know deep in your soul that is very hard to care for someone in their time of need. You have struggled to get it right. You have fallen short of your own ideals. You have had to apologize. You have had to regroup. You have had to change.
This is your experience. This is my experience. Caring is hard to do.
But I think I know your heart – you want to care better for others – in your own home, in your workplace, in your community, and your world. Where do we start?
Let me offer you this framework to help you care better for others.
First – change always begins with you.
DEFINE your own principle of care. Ask yourself, when I look back on how I handled myself in these times, what do I want people to say about my actions? As an example, my personal response would be that I want the other person to say I was attentive, loving, and willing to sacrifice for them.
MIRROR TEST your own behavior. How have you lived up to your principle – and where have you fallen short? Be honest with yourself. Do this not just once, but daily.
Second – listen to and learn from others.
ASK curious questions of people you care for. Listen carefully and learn everything you can about them, their challenge, their life experience, their needs. Let them tell you what great care looks like in their worldview.
PRACTICE the caring behaviors that are difficult for you – and important to the other person. You won’t improve without effort. No pain. No gain. When you fall short, apologize and try again. For me, I must practice patience – it just doesn’t come naturally to me.
FEEDBACK. Ask the person and others around you to tell you what they have observed – noting your positive caring acts and your opportunities to be more caring. Make a conscious decision to stick with it until your actions are aligned with your principles. This is living a life of integrity.
These steps will help you demonstrate genuine care more often – but they will not make you perfect. Perfection is not going to happen this side of heaven. But acts of genuine care can bring a bit of heaven to this earth.