Thank you for giving me the opportunity to reflect, write, and share my thoughts with you on a regular basis in this newsletter. Writing to you has supported my growth!
This week I want to highlight the top three qualities in people that I have admired, tried to emulate, and believe to be essential for a quality life, starting with the most difficult quality to embody of them all.
May your week be filled with warmth, laughter, and goodness!
It has been a wonderful week filled with positive interactions with people who have brought light, joy, and goodness into my life. I am filled with gratitude, not only for these wonderful people but for all the wonderful people who have enlightened and lifted me throughout my life. I want to write about them. In particular, I want to focus on the special attributes they embody that have set an example for me.
Here are the top three attributes that I have noticed in quality people with an accompanying vignette about someone who embodied that attribute:
- Humility. The rarest and one of the most beautiful attributes of all. To me, humility means that the person is open to learning and is able to appreciate others without the need for self-aggrandizement. It allows the person to be present and to flow with the challenges of life. It also allows others to shine joyfully, being who they are, without needing to shrink themselves to avoid offending another person's pride. Humble people are constantly growing and improving. They learn from their setbacks, traumas, and mistakes. They help others without envy, jealousy, greed, or pride getting in the way. Never underestimate humility. It is the power of being open to change that leads to success and positive results.
One of my most successful patients was a humble accountant who had suffered most of his life with auditory hallucinations that constantly berated him. When he was in his 50's, he called seven psychiatrists, asking them to help him taper off his medication. Every psychiatrist refused. When he reached me, I also didn't want to work with him initially, but he asked me to give him just one chance; he didn't care if he failed and got sick in the attempt. Well, he didn't get sick. He worked hard, followed directions, and healed completely.
- Compassion. It is innate to be self-centered; it is inspirational to be compassionate. Every person who has ever influenced me for good has done so because they embodied compassion. Why is compassion important for a quality life? I believe that compassion is the path of unselfishness that leads to deep joy and fulfillment in life.
During medical school, I was becoming numb to suffering and acclimating to the narcissistic, hierarchical setting when something amazing happened that I will never forget.
One morning, we were standing around a patient for neurology rounds with an attending. The patient was comatose, after having undergone brain surgery, where she had lost one eye. As we stood around, the interns and residents began to quietly snicker and joke about her, calling her "The Cyclops." They lacked compassion because they felt that she got what she deserved for delaying medical care due to her religious beliefs. I stood listening, weary from overstudy and lack of sleep. Through my haze, the voice of the attending broke through, soft and measured. He defended the helpless woman, as she lay bloated and still in her bed. He told all of us to always be respectful of patients when we are by their bedside. There was silence in the room as he spoke, and for a long while afterward. I will never forget his noble compassion.
- Integrity. Integrity is the backbone of a quality life. It is a combination of honesty, courage, strength, and goodness. Whether you work as a plumber or as the president of the United States, your integrity will determine whether you are a light or a blight in other people's lives. When one has integrity, one can stand strong in the midst of great challenges, for integrity is aligned and empowered by the energy of truth. To have a quality life, you need the inner strength of integrity to face the winds and tides of fortune. Otherwise, you can easily be blown off course and get lost.
In 2003, I went to an orthomolecular conference in Canada--my first. An old man with white hair came up to me and asked for my business card. He was Dr. Abram Hoffer. After the conference, he emailed me, and we began to correspond with each other. He usually answered my questions within an hour, which always surprised and pleased me. He once joked that, in the past, they used to burn people at the stake, but now they just sued them. He should know, since he faced tremendous persecution and lawsuits due to his pioneering work in orthomolecular psychiatry. Dr. Hoffer was a humble man with integrity. The second time I had to fight the Maryland Board, the original letter of complaint (from a source uninvolved with the patient's treatment) tried to paint me as a witch. I then thought of Dr. Hoffer's joke and took comfort in knowing that I was in good company.
Humility, compassion, and integrity are my top three choices for attributes for a quality life. Alas, there are no double-blind, placebo-controlled trials to reference for my preferences. Instead, you will have to rely on your heart and intuition to weigh their importance in creating a quality life.
I hope that my thoughts will inspire you to reflect on important attributes, and to strengthen them as you move through life.