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It is popularly lauded that it is the thought that counts.
Which is comforting if someone has bought you a disappointing birthday present. At least, you reason to yourself, they care enough to have got you something. They remembered your birthday and wanted to show you they care. Regardless of how bad the present, the thought is nice.
But as warming as it is, it is inherently untrue.
The truth is that if they were really thinking, they probably would have thought of something you’d prefer. They would have considered your interests more thoroughly and got you something you’d actually like.
Clearly, their thought didn’t count for that much at all.
The thoughts count when someone is so broke that they can barely afford their own rent, but still wrap you up a packet of cookies to show that they thought at all. And even then, the thought is best expressed through the action.
Because the action is what proves to people that you care. It is the evidence of all your affection and thought.
You can think ‘I love you’ a million times, but it won’t count for anything if you never say it. You can say ‘I love you’ a million times and it will all get erased if you’re consistently selfish and insensitive towards them. But if you behave kindly towards them, treat them with love and respect and show them that you value their place in your life, they’ll always feel as special as they are.
Equally, you can think horrible, offensive, cruel thoughts about someone else, but if you still treat them decently and courteously, it doesn’t matter. You become the bigger person by acting on what is right rather than your negative instinct.
If you’re completely indifferent to another human being but understand that they deserve your kindness and respect, then offering them those decencies will make a positive impact on their life no matter how you feel about them. They don’t care if you never think of them again, the good deed you do will still matter to them. It will still have the same effect on their life. They will still feel touched by the goodness shown to them.
If the reason you choose to help others is because you genuinely love the rest of mankind purely and unconditionally, fantastic. You are a paragon of human integrity.
But if the reason you choose to help others is because you don’t want to look like a bad person, or because you feel like you have, or because someone has told you to, only you really knows the difference. It doesn’t change the experience of the person on the receiving end of that decision.
All they know is that you did something kind for them. They don’t care why you did it. They’re just thankful that you did.
They’re glad to see someone doing something good in a world that’s too often driven by greed and hate. It reminds them to stay optimistic and to treat others the way you treated them.
So that even if you don’t feel the giving spirit deep down inside, you might inspire it in someone else.