The greatest lesson I ever learned

The greatest lesson I ever learned is a simple one. It didn’t come from my parents, or religion, or one of the many professors I had in college. It came from my least favorite teacher in my least favorite high school class, and it had nothing to do with school. And at the time, I didn’t know it was something that would always stick with me.

I won’t name the teacher, but when she told the class she wanted to tell us a story about her brother and an important lesson he learned, I probably rolled my eyes. I’m not even sure I listened to the story, because I can’t remember it, but I do remember the lesson:

Any time a compliment comes to your mind, say it out loud.

It was that simple. If you think something kind about a person, say it. It doesn’t benefit anybody to keep it to yourself, and the act of telling them could have a bigger impact than you realize.

She went on and on about the different compliments you could give a person – whether you like their shoes, or their new haircut, or you just think they’re a funny person, always be sure to tell them.

I don’t know if I thought anything of it at the time or if I consciously tried to incorporate it into my life, but I have done so ever since. Most of the time, compliments come out of my mouth as quickly as I think them. It doesn’t occur to me to question whether or not I should say them, and on the occasion that a compliment comes to mind and I can’t immediately say it (for example, if the person is in the middle of talking), I say it as soon as I am able to. If I don’t, I feel horribly guilty.

Giving a compliment is the simplest act of kindness a person can practice, and it can go a longer way than you realize. I cannot stress that enough, and I wish more people realized it: small acts of kindness can go a long way.

I have never given a compliment that was met with an unhappy reaction, and making others happy makes me happy in return. It’s a win-win situation. Even when they’re surprised and don’t know how to react, I’m always glad that I told them and didn’t let the opportunity pass by.

An opportunity to be kind to another person should never, ever be passed up. Compliments aren’t given out as freely and as often as they should be. Too often we hold back on what we are thinking, but when it comes to kind thoughts, share them.

If you think something nice, say it. It’s the simplest, yet most useful lesson I have ever learned, and I’ll always be grateful for the teacher who taught me that.

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