Part 4: "Kindness" My Conversation With Charles Ries in Four Parts

Part 4: “Kindness”

I ask Charles to give me one word…one word that he feels makes him shine or that he would want people to remember when they think of him.

“Kindness.”

(I love this.)

“You know, it’s always interesting when people tell you what they think of you or how they see you. I was in a meeting today and some of the people there have known me a short time and some people have known me a long time and they…they have a view of me. They tell me, “Oh…you think EVERYTHING is awesome.” And I thought to myself, “What does that mean? Am I like a Pollyanna? Do I just like things without reason…do I just believe in everybody? But I thought about this more and I realized that it’s pretty hard for me not to care about anybody or their needs. Because they’re not all in the right jobs and they’re not all equally able to do certain things.”

“The issue for me isn’t that I don’t love all of God’s children, (and I do) it’s just that I want to help them figure out how they can serve God in this world in an optimal way. I don’t think that’s so easy to figure out sometimes. People and ego get in their own way. People get into the wrong positions for power or for control and they’re not skilled at what they are doing. Humans make choices a lot of the time based on ego, based on fear, out of a need for power. I don’t think those are the right reasons to be in a position. You can’t turn everyone into your enemy. You have to be there for them.”

“I’m kind and that doesn’t make me weak. It doesn’t make me soft.”

This is a realization Charles has found over time and at the allowance of much personal introspection and growth.

“Maybe if someone had said to me “Oh…you think EVERYTHING is awesome” ten or fifteen years ago, I may have taken that to mean “weak” or “soft” and that’s not, it’s just not. So I like that they think this about me. I know who I am. I know what I can do. I know I can be hyper competitive. I know I can outperform anybody at work and I do, but I can be kind. And thoughtful. And caring and compassionate.”

“It’s okay to be kind.”

“You can’t heal everyone you know, but you can decide to take someone on. You can decide to commit to someone and be available to that person and hang out with them. And believe me…this can be exhausting; this is not free time. This is time you are giving of yourself. You are taking them down a path.”

“I do this, because this was done for me.”

I ask him again about what it means to “be present” Charles says, “What we want… is to get back to center. More and more I recognize that I can come back to center faster. When we get “fragmented”…when someone blows smoke at you or gets in your face, generally you’re going to become upset. You’re going to be emotionally upset. Or you might become frightened or angry. Or you might feel betrayed. That’s all being fragmented and it consumes you.”

“Where you want to get back to is…well, how we feel right now. How we feel right now is real. It’s us. It’s the true us. That thing that happened yesterday with that person that blew smoke at us or freaked us out – these are like these bubbles we ride. These emotional bubbles. It’s not that Zen doesn’t have feeling attached to it, it’s that it allows us to be more present and if we’re more present, our feelings become truer.”

“So how do we get back? Get back to center? Meditation is a quick way to get there. Quiet yourself down and allow yourself to hear what you are thinking. Breathing. Breathing helps…anything you can do to settle yourself down can have the same effect.”

“The more you know yourself, the more help you can be to the people around you.”
….
My conversation with Charles was a few weeks ago, but as with all of my interactions with him, his words have resonated with me and I find I am still reflecting on many of the insights gained from a single conversation.

But that is the merit of making time to sit down and be wholly present with another person.

The ability to share a meaningful exchange of words in even the smallest slip of time is a silver lining to our sometimes tumultuous humanity. There is power to be gained in this experience.

Our insights are meant to be shared.

And I will always share mine with you.

P.S. I felt compelled to create a playlist for you inspired by the musings of my friend and some of the musical influences he has shared with me. Enjoy!

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