Goodness and Humility

My late Father –in-Law was one of the greatest spiritual teachers of our generation.  An incident occurred that is worthy of repeating, in order to show the nature of true goodness and humility, qualities in short supply in our .world. He was lying in bed, in his last days when a lady walked in from a society of volunteers who visit the sick. The family were a bit startled and bemused about how he was going to deal with this almost absurd situation. Here in the bed was the teacher, the one to whom everybody turns to for guidance, comfort and counsel, and the volunteer in a potentially embarrassing situation. My father–in-laws response was to talk to her as if he was a regular sick person. He told her how deeply he appreciated her kindness and concern, and told her how important it is for her to continue to do her most valuable work. In talking privately to the family he said how important it is, when visiting the sick to smile and be like still waters, and not like a tsunami.

He often emphasised that the true purpose of visiting the sick is to investigate their needs and to be responsive to what they require, not to do what you need. This can often mean that not visiting, keeping out of the family’s way or not taking the strength and energy of the sick person is a greater kindness than visiting. It means tuning in to whether the sick person even wants to speak to you, let alone allowing them to discuss what is on their minds and not making compulsive demanding chatter in the room. It means respecting the privacy of a person who might be embarrassed about their condition or physical appearance. When he was on the receiving end of people’s demands and acting out of their own agendas, all he could seem to see in them was the good. He had the incredible skill of seeing people the way that they most wanted to be seen, noticing the characteristics that they chose to be defined by and not even considering hidden agendas or insincerity of their part. As a psychologist whose trade is about being perceptive to peoples hidden motives and intentions, this was always a profound lesson for me. It is one thing to see through people when that is what they are inviting you to do, and even paying you to do. In everyday life however, when people just want to be loved and accepted for whom they are, and may even play games or put on false fronts in order to get your love and acceptance them, do not be so clever, rather just be kind.

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