When I was born (May 1957), my mom asked her 17-year-old brother, Dick LaHood, if he would be my godfather. My earliest memory of my Uncle Dick is from the early 1960s when he would pick up me and several of my brothers and sisters in his Cadillac and take us swimming at the Timber Lake Club.
Another early memory is when he showed up at our house on Christmas Eve with a box full of gifts for me and my brothers and sisters. He had money to spend because he owned a very successful business, and he loved to use his money to give gifts and create special memories for the people he cared about. (He recently turned 80 and he’s still that way.)
After I graduated from law school and started my law practice, I periodically reached out to Uncle Dick for advice and guidance on the best way to deal with my clients and operate my business. I can’t think of any occasion when he gave me bad advice. It was a great blessing for me to have a successful business owner who cared about me and was willing to take the time to help me out.
On one occasion, when I was 29 years old, Uncle Dick told me something that caused me to make an adjustment in my attitude and the way I treated other people. He told me about a theory that he had that he had named the “Reflector Theory.” Here’s what he told me about his theory:
There are a lot of people who wonder why they are treated badly by others. They don’t understand why people don’t trust them, respect them, or treat them fairly. What they fail to realize is that the way they are being treated is usually a reflection of how they treat people. They don’t understand that respect and trust and fairness has to start with them.
That’s where the Reflector Theory comes in. You need to understand that the people you interact with are like mirrors that reflect back to you the same attitude and behavior that you exhibit. If you are dishonest, nasty, or disrespectful to people, then the people you interact with will be dishonest, nasty, or disrespectful to you. On the other hand, if you are honest, kind, and respectful toward others, there’s a good chance that most other people will, like a mirror, reflect back to you the same honesty, kindness, and respect that you exhibit toward others.
You need to always do your best to keep in mind that your life will be much more satisfying and rewarding if you make use of the Reflector Theory every time you interact with other people.
What my uncle taught me was a valuable lesson, especially in light of the fact that I was a young lawyer who was working hard to build my business and reputation in the community.
In reality, Uncle Dick’s Reflector Theory was simply an easy-to-understand explanation of the golden rule that we are all familiar with: “Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you.” Luke 6:31.
Last week, in my article, The Season of Gratitude, I wrote about the importance of expressing genuine gratitude toward others by words of love, appreciation, encouragement, enthusiasm, and support, and by deeds in which you share with others your money, talents, skills, abilities, wisdom, and knowledge.
If you apply the Reflector Theory to the way you express gratitude toward others, it’s easy to understand that your words of love, appreciation, encouragement, and support, as well as your time, money, talents, and knowledge will result in other people acting as mirrors who will reflect back at you, in their own way, their love, appreciation, encouragement, and support, and when you are in need, will rush to your side with their time, money, talents, and knowledge.
In her book, Attitudes of Gratitude: How to Give and Receive Joy Every Day of Your Life, Mary Jane Ryan wrote, “When you are grateful, it is impossible to also be hateful, angry, or fearful.”
There are a lot of hateful, angry, and fearful people in the world who blame their problems on everyone but themselves. They blame their family members, teachers, employers, fellow employees, corporations, the government, or any other people or institutions that they believe make their lives miserable. They are victims who are always looking for a villain to blame for their insecurity, loneliness, and misfortune.
What they fail to realize is that their hate and anger toward others reflects back at them from all the mirrors (people) they interact with, which makes them even more hateful and angry.
Every morning when I wake up, the first thing I do is reach out to the holy family — Jesus, Mary, and Joseph — and pray the aspiration my mom taught me when I was a child, “Jesus, Mary, Joseph, I love you save souls.” Then I ask them to help me to be productive and to glorify God throughout the day. I then go through a few other mental rituals to prepare myself for the day.
One of the rituals I practice is that I remind myself that my attitude and behavior will be reflected back at me by the mirrors (people) that I interact with throughout the day, so I need to be careful about my attitude and how I behave toward others.
My practice of the Reflector Theory does not stop me from saying and doing what is necessary to hold other people accountable. There are occasions when I tell people things they don’t want to hear. The reason I do this is that I want them to know that they are capable of thinking and behaving at a higher level than they are accustomed to. I try to make it clear to them that they should hold themselves to a higher standard.
By the same token, I try to welcome the constructive criticism of people who know what they are talking about, which is a reflection of what I attempt to do with the people I interact with.
I’m far from perfect at following through on the golden rule and the Reflector Theory, primarily because of my impatience and my tendency to be more aggressive than I should be. But despite my weaknesses, I have benefited greatly from the advice that I got from my uncle 34 years ago, and I’m thankful that my mom asked him to be my godfather.
The daily practice of the Reflector Theory is a good way for you to use the gifts that God gave you to show kindness, charity, and gratitude toward others. Keep this in mind during the Christmas season and throughout the next year.
You will find that if you get really good at practicing the Reflector Theory, your relationships with others will become much more meaningful, worthwhile, and rewarding.