I got the nicest thank you note recently, in response to a card I had written to someone in which I shared some things that I notice and appreciate about him.
He said my card had moved him to tears because it described him as the person he hopes to be, even though he knows he often falls short. I loved it not only because that’s how I want to see and treat people, but also because it points to something really fundamental about the Gift of Happiness.
Both goodness and imperfection exist within everyone, all the time, and we have a choice about where we want to focus our attention. That choice is important because it affects both our own happiness and the impact we have on others.
It only takes a moment to try it out for yourself:
Think about someone who bothers you. Think about those characteristics that you judge and criticize, that completely fall short of your ideals for human beings. Think about how much you can’t stand that person, and notice how it feels to be self-righteous and judgmental.
Now try to focus on something you appreciate about that person. What virtues do they have? What kind of person do you think they aspire to be? What kinds of things might they struggle with in their life? Notice how it feels to acknowledge the good qualities that exist alongside their imperfection.
Maybe this isn’t true for everybody, but when I focus on the goodness within other people, it also brings ME closer to being the person I aspire to be. And that is a huge win-win.