You are going to make a difference in someone’s life this year. That is a fact.
The question is, what kind of difference will you make? Will your impact be positive or negative? Will it be deep or shallow? Will it be lasting or fleeting? Will you influence many or few?
There are a lot of things that are out of our control. We can never know how someone is going to interpret what we say or do. Some people worry about this. “What will people think?”, they ask themselves.
But we can’t control what other people think. We can only control what we think, say, and do. The way we think and the things we do are what will make a difference in people’s lives. The holier our thoughts and actions, the more positive and powerful our impact on others will be.
All of us are capable of living holier lives. Holiness is not a quality reserved to pious saints who fast and meditate on mountain tops. There are simple things anyone can do every day to grow in holiness. Sometimes we call these things “virtues.” Here are a few virtues that are important to develop if we want to make a difference in people’s lives.
May my teaching fall like rain and my speech descend like dew. —Deuteronomy 32:2
Sometimes we confuse knowledge and wisdom. We have to grow in knowledge to be wise, but we can’t stop there. Geniuses are not necessarily wise unless they apply their genius to understanding. Try doing these things to grow in wisdom.
- Pray for wisdom. Wisdom is a gift, and God is a gift-giver. Ask for more wisdom.
- Think before you speak or act. Often we know that our words or actions are unwise, but we act out of habit or laziness. Take a moment to think first.
- Surround yourself with wise friends. In the next month, start or develop a friendship with someone you consider to be wise.
- Read more. Knowledge is not wisdom, but knowledge is necessary for wisdom. In the next month, read one or two books. Try to read at least one new book a month.
When I fear, I will trust in you, in God, whose word I praise. In God I trust. I shall not fear. What can mere mortals do to me? —Psalm 56:3-4
Courage is mostly about believing in yourself the way God believes in you. Whenever we say, “I can’t…” or “I could never…”, we are saying God can’t or God could never. Fear is an illusion. All things are possible in the Lord. Here are some steps to become more courageous.
- Take risks. If you have choice to go or stay, do the one that is more risky. Raise your hand. Speak out. Write a letter. Apologize. Initiate a conversation. In the next month, do four things that seem a little risky.
- Fake it. Sometimes we are afraid we will fail. Try pretending you are a success. Act successful, look successful, fake successful. What’s the worst that could happen? In the next month, fake being successful at one new thing.
- Breathe. Breathe in, and breathe out, slowly. Relax all your muscles. It is impossible to feel fearful and relaxed at the same time.
- Pray for courage. Google “Bible verses about courage” and write out seven of them in your prayer journal. Pray one a day, every day for the next month.
Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you. —Ephesians 4:32—5:1
Try these simple actions to become more kind.
- Be kind to yourself. It’s really hard to be kind to others when you feel bad about yourself. For the next month, try to monitor and suppress any negative thoughts you have about yourself. Start to view mistakes as learning opportunities instead of indictments.
- Pray for discernment. Sometimes we are kind so that we will get something in return. Or we suppress anger or hurt feelings and offer a false veneer of kindness. Pray for insight to know the difference and strength to turn false kindness into true kindness.
- Show up. What most people want is an emotional connection. Listen to others more closely. Write a letter. Make a phone call. Arrive early and leave late.
- Be generous. For the next month “spread kindness” by doing some crazy-generous thing once a day.
But I will hope continually, / and will praise you yet more and more. / My mouth will tell of your righteous acts, / of your deeds of salvation all day long, / though their number is past my knowledge. —Psalm 71:14-15
Pope Francis said that the early Christians depicted hope as an anchor that is fixed on the shore of the afterlife. The goal of a Christian is to walk towards this anchor. Hope is not mere optimism but a belief in the resurrected life in Jesus Christ. Here some ways to become more hopeful.
- Embrace the darkness. Remember that times of adversity are times of exponential growth. Think about it. When have you learned the most and grown the most in your life? It was probably during some of your worst moments. It didn’t seem like it at the time, but looking back, you see how the difficult times have made you who you are.
- Be grateful. Many of us hope for a better life or more money or more love or more fill-in-the-blank. Sometimes looking backward can help us look forward. For the next month, write down one thing you are grateful for. Offer a prayer of thanksgiving to God for having blessed you with incredible gifts.
- Get healthy. It is hard to feel hopeful when your body is out of whack. You are probably fed up with hearing about diet and exercise, but that doesn’t make it less important. Still, I’m not going to ask you eat right and to exercise. You already know that’s the plan. I am going to ask you to change your habits. Wait…I’m not even going to ask you to do that. I’m just going to ask that you read about changing your habits. Click on this article. It will take you five minutes to skim it and ten minutes to read it carefully.
- Sleep more. Part of a healthy lifestyle is getting enough rest. Exhaustion can lead to hopelessness. If your mind and body are worn down, it’s difficult to imagine life getting better. For the next month, commit to sleeping at least eight hours each night.
You could choose other virtues to focus on. These four are good places to start, but start with whatever virtue is going to make a difference in your life. Because this year, you will make a difference in someone else’s life. By living a virtuous lifestyle, the difference you make will be powerful and long-lasting.
What do you think?
Are these actions doable for you in the next month? Are there other actions you can suggest? Please share your thoughts in the comments box below.