I start most mornings with some spirituality-based reading and over the past several years this has included the works of the late-John Templeton. Better known for the investment fund that bears his name, after his retirement Templeton wrote several expansive philosophy and religion books that are absolutely overflowing with spiritual wisdom.
What’s compelling about Templeton’s work is that his spiritual teachings (often presented as lessons) can immediately be incorporated into your daily life. And I recently ran across a “lesson” I found so essential to living a fuller, more connected life, and so easy-to-do, I thought I would share it with you.
His idea starts with a simple premise:
Each of us walks through life engaged in our own personal ministry.
While the term “ministry” is often used in regards to religion, for Templeton it takes on a broader meaning. It encompasses “the way we live our lives—how we handle situations, our values and ideals, our goals and the way we strive to attain them.” But most importantly, it revolves around “how we treat others.”
Templeton believes that the key to the success of our personal ministry, and the success of our lives on this planet, relates to how we interact with the people around us. How do we connect with those we encounter each day? What type of messages or signals do we give them? Do we offer them recognition or make them feel special? To that end, he advises us to:
“…reach the hearts of others and give them something of vital value, something that will broaden and enrich their lives. Desire that every person be open and alive to higher inspirations and filled with a beauty and truth so splendid that it elevates his or her soul.”
Well all this sounds well and good, you may say. I want others to feel good. But how do I go about elevating others in my everyday life? What can I do?
Fortunately, Templeton gives us a very simple guide to follow, three key action words we can act upon each day, with each person we encounter:
I personally have begun using the acronym REP to remember the first three letters of the words Recognition, Encouragement, Praise. And for me, the meaning and intent behind these words can be simply explained.
Recognize involves walking through life alert and aware, greeting those you know, and even those you don’t, with eye contact, a warm smile and a hello. From that point, you can take the next step and add encouragement or praise to the mix.Encourage those who need a kind word, who appear to be having a rough day, who need to be uplifted. Praise those who are doing something/anything of value, even if it’s commenting on the smart fashion choice they made that day.
Think you can’t do it? Templeton tells us the story (also featured in the bookSpiritual Literacy by Frederick and Mary Ann Brussat) of a woman named Maxine F. Davis, who has a job that is both hectic and stressful—she’s a cashier. Yet her personal ministry involves helping others feel good on a daily basis. According to Maxine:
It is the manner in which I present myself to others that will determine whether my customers will leave the store feeling better or worse because of their brief encounter with me. By doing my job well, I know I have a chance to do God’s work too. Because of this, I try to make each of my customers feel special. While I’m serving them, they become the most important people in my life.
As Templeton points out when you discover and develop the abilities of others, you’re not only helping others. At the same time, you’re helping yourself. And the fact is, it feels good to help others feel good.
R.E.P. Recognize. Encourage. Praise. Three simple words that when put into use each day, with each encounter, can actually help you become a better you—and help the world become a better place, too.
This post originally appeared on my Wake Up Call column at the faith site Patheos, November 13, 2013.