This I Believe

Brian - NY, New York
Entered on June 6, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50

I believe that we would all be better off if we could incorporate into the practice of our daily lives three simple words: Clarity, Honesty, and Kindness.

Just how strongly do I believe this?

Let’s put it this way: I haven’t gone quite so far as to get these three words tattooed on to my arm or leg – but that’s mostly because they would have to be upside-down for me to be able to read them. And that would look pretty stupid, now wouldn’t it?

But I do wear a pendant under my shirt each day with those three words etched onto it. And as I go through my work-day (I’m a physician, by the way), I can feel this tarnished and dented talisman whacking against my breastbone – keeping me honest, keeping me on track. A tattoo can’t do that.

Clarity. Honesty. Kindness.

I may get lost in a complicated patient history – full of twists and turns, false leads or an avalanche of details. I’m getting buried alive. Then I feel the gentle knocking on my chest and I am reminded to keep sifting the chaff in order to get to the wheat. “Clarity,” I hear, “Just keep your head.”

Or I find myself holding back – hesitating or perhaps tiptoeing around some distasteful or awkward bit of information. There is this space between what I want to say and what I hear myself saying. Then – whack, whack: “Be Honest. Really. It’s O.K….Just be honest.”

And then there is that occasional patient who makes me cringe – who is impatient or noncompliant or Just Plain Mean. I want to tell him off. I want to put her in her place, once and for all. But then I feel the pendant gently tapping me. “Slow down,” it says, “Take a breath. Remember that nobody gets up in the morning planning to be a jerk. Angry people are often just unhappy. You should try to be kind to them.”

To tell you the truth, sometimes I actually get a bit annoyed at the little pendant – which is ridiculous, I know, because…well…it’s only a piece of tin. And because I’m the one that had it engraved with those three little words in the first place. It’s just that it always seems to speak up when I’m falling short – when I’m at my worst.

Clarity. Honesty. Kindness.

Sometimes – but not always – I wear the pendant on the weekends, too. Or in the evenings. Or at night. And when I do, those three words keep floating back to me. I am reminded to be clear to others when I’m explaining something. I catch myself being selfish or petty, so I try to be honest with myself and own up to it. And as for practicing kindness? Well, there seems to be no shortage of bad drivers on the road, does there?

So, yeah: I guess I really, truly, believe in the importance of Clarity, Honesty, and Kindness. I believe that they require constant practice. It’s like stretching: you’re never really “finished,” you’re always in the state of “getting better.” But I believe that we are each able to improve. And that we are each better off for at least trying.