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Wed, Dec. 11

Column: Kind words improve life for everyone

This is the 10th installment of Granddaddyisms I shared with our eldest grandson when he was a teenager.

Dylan, here is a goal you may wish to develop. During your lifetime, consider devoting more of your energy and time praising people than finding fault with them. Blaming others or putting them down for their shortcomings or perceived limitations and flaws is a monumental waste of time. Besides, the effort will only add misery to your life. And it certainly won't gain you friends or persuade them to feel positively about you. Be aware that most people are quick to find fault and slow to commend. Think about yourself. Is it easier for you to criticize or commend? How often do you think about the things your mother, dad, brother or friends do that annoy you or cause you to become angry or provoke you to deliver an unkind reaction or unkind words? Then think about how often you say something positive or loving about them or to them. When is the last time you told someone you like them or love them or that they mean a lot to you or that they just said or did something that you want to thank them for? Think how you feel when someone says something nice about you. Well, Dylan, people like it when you say positive things about them. And they will like you better when you do. You win friends and the respect of others when you are kind and thoughtful; you lose friends and respect - and sometimes love - when you are unkind and thoughtless. Be kind and thoughtful and positive, Dylan. Learn to express those feelings to others. Their responses will fill your life with kindness and love and respect. And you will become a happier person. I guarantee it!

• People who consider themselves unlucky are usually victims of their own poor decisions. So they try to rationalize those decisions by calling themselves unlucky. They aren't honest enough to acknowledge that they have screwed up.

• Dylan, never turn your mind or heart or soul over to someone else. They will likely rob you.

• I hope you are still enjoying your music and finding time to play your guitar. Good music - the kind that enriches your senses and brings joy to your soul - has no meanness, sarcasm, hatred, anger or prejudice. It speaks to the best that is in you. It raises your spirit, penetrates your heart with love, and brings joy to your life. Learn to appreciate symphonies by Beethoven, Mozart and Bach. And someday I hope you will listen to my favorite composer and my all-time favorite composition, "Rhapsody in Blue." And if you like that, listen to "An American in Paris," and Gershwin's folk opera "Porgy and Bess."

• I believe one of life's most important lessons is to understand that all of us are flawed human beings. We are imperfect individuals. What we should attempt to do, of course, is work at identifying and correcting those flaws as opposed to trying to hide them and pretending they don't exist or that no one pays attention to them. As we do this, we should also work at developing our strengths. You, Dylan, have particular gifts (abilities, talents and skills) that contribute to you becoming a good, strong individual. A good life is earned by the person who minimizes flaws (limitations) and maximizes strengths. You might consider making two columns on a page and listing them.

• I think it's likely, Dylan, that you are going to do some really dumb things in your life. Everyone does. Learn from your mistakes and try not to repeat them. Then move on. It's only the future you can do anything about. The past is history.

• You will learn - if you haven't already - that those individuals who are dedicated to furthering their self-interests are often blind to the needs of others.

• Dylan, you are a plural noun. You are you, of course, but you are also the product of your parents, your brother, your grandparents and friends. In other words, others have shaped your identity and will continue to do so. We will always be a part of you. You are never really alone.

Dr. Ron Barnes is a retired educator and businessman.

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