Even in difficult times we can become better people

If you prefer pessimism, it’s easier than ever to find reasons for it. If you go seeking (or if an algorithm decides to bring it to you), you can find sadness and plenty of divisive issues. As if that’s not enough, it compounds when you find a difficult issue and also learn that some friends and family fall on the other side of it from you. So now along with agony you have a side of anger.

The more iniquity, the more despair. It’s easy to see what Joel meant when he warned of “a day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness, as the morning spread upon the mountains.”

Like many of you I prefer to find the good as much as I can. I like to hear of and participate in kindness and improvement. I believe that the capacity for kindness in each of us can not be overstated. We can all do so much for each other and for ourselves.

I like to understand new research that will motivate me to be better. Perhaps some of you do as well?

To combat all the negative that is available, I’d like to list a few things I’ve recently read. I hope that it will help some of you like it did me.

Despite what you see on TV, many dads are parenting better than ever

After a national study of 2,194 fathers of children ages 2 through 18, the results show that a majority of fathers today are relatively involved in their children’s lives. This is great news. When dad joins mom in emotional support and spending time with children, that’s a recipe for happiness.

The study also shares how we can be better fathers with tips on balancing “masculinity” and tenderness. These scientific tips include:

  • It’s OK to show and feel your feelings. Doing so will help you be a better, more involved and engaged father.
  • Be an example. Children learn by example and demonstrating beliefs and attitudes that are supportive not only benefit the father-child relationship, but they also teach children positive behaviors.
  • There are many ways to be a man — being a “tough guy” is associated with poor parenting, which can negatively affect children.
  • Fathers should not be afraid of being nurturing, caring and hands-on. Children and families all benefit when they do.

I couldn’t agree with all of these suggestions more. Being a good father (and partner to my wife) is, by far, my greatest joy. If I’m not careful, I’ll let the stresses of the day undeservedly distract me from my highest priorities.

Social media allows for negative feedback, learn from it

Those who ask for feedback are much more likely to succeed. However, when you ask, you should be prepared for the negative feedback. A recent article I read suggest the following:

  • Don’t rush to react on the feedback but give it time to settle in a bit
  • Get more data from other trusted sources to tell you if it’s accurate
  • Find a way that will broadcast real change and desire to help
  • Share what you are learning with others so you don’t struggle alone

I’ve learned that holding a grudge can be among life’s heaviest burdens. Understand what you can learn from the situation and move on.

There are so many ways to improve

The Scientific American put together a strong list of things we don’t know about ourselves. Much of this resonates with me (though some of it does not…and that’s ok too.) Some highlights and short comments:

“We are frequently blind to the effect we have on others because we simply do not see our own facial expressions, gestures and body language.”

This is true and very interesting to me. I sit in front of large groups often and I have no idea how I come across at those times. It’s difficult to read your own body language but so easy to see it in others.

We too often think we are better at something than we are.

It’s known as the Dunning-Kruger effect. Speaking of children, they are a great antidote for this poisonous pride.

People who tear themselves down experience setbacks more frequently.

In our effort to show kindness, building people up is among the best work that we can do.


Life can be difficult. If we’re not careful, we can make it even harder (and a whole lot less fun) if we dwell on the negative. I know I have much more I can do in showing kindness and becoming a better person.  I do believe that difficult times like these can speed up that process. As James Allen wrote:

“Circumstance does not make the man, it reveals him unto himself.”