I had a delightful meal at one of my favorite restaurants last night. Back home, emptying my pockets I discovered my credit card was missing. It hadn’t been stolen; I had just left my brain and my plastic behind at the restaurant.

As I drove back to retrieve the orphaned card, I began thinking about other things I’ve left behind. You see, I left more than my credit card at the restaurant last night; I also left impressions. Yes, I know, I left an impression of carelessness. But I hope I didn’t leave one of care-less-ness—one that said I couldn’t care less about the hostess, the waitress, the busboy. I hope I didn’t leave an impression of coldness, haughtiness, or rudeness.

Every morning when you walk out the door, you leave an impression behind. It may be a care-less impression that whispers, “I couldn’t care less about your day”—or it may be a care-more impression that shouts, “I care more for you than you can imagine.” The impression you leave on the other side of that door can make or mar the day for the person left there. Being ignored hurts almost as much as being abused. Being adored infuses a sense of worth.

Everywhere you go you leave an impression.

What impression do you leave when you walk out of the restaurant, the department store, the grocery, the cleaners, the bank, the office? Do you leave behind a harsh word or an encouraging one? A testy attitude or a cheerful one? Do you leave an impression that arouses a feeling of “I hope she comes back soon” or one of “I hope I never have to see her again”?

You go in with something that you leave behind. Every place. Every time. An impression.

The Golden Rule

“All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them,” Jesus charged.

Confucius put the Golden Rule in negative form: “Do not to others what you would not wish done to yourself.” So did Rabbi Hillel. Asked by a prospective convert to state the whole law while he stood on one leg, Hillel said: “What is hateful to you, do not do to anyone else. This is the whole law; all the rest is only commentary.”

There is a big difference between the negative maxims of these gurus and the positive initiative Jesus taught. The negative can be fulfilled by inaction; the positive only by action. The person who resolves, “I will not hurt,” is worlds apart from the one who resolves, “I will help.”

When you follow Jesus’ Golden Rule you always leave behind positive impressions, never negative ones: always polite, never rude; always considerate, never harsh; always kind, never cruel.

All about Me? Or All about You?

He enters the room grandiosely: “Here I am!” (“Lucky you!”)

She enters the room graciously: “There you are!” (“Lucky me!”)

Back-to-back Prime Ministers Benjamin Disraeli and William Gladstone took the same lady to dinner—Gladstone one evening and Disraeli the next. Asked what impressions these prominent men had made upon her, she said, “When I left the dining room after sitting next to Mr. Gladstone I thought he was the cleverest man in England. But after sitting next to Mr. Disraeli I thought I was the cleverest woman in England.”

What impression do you leave behind? Do people come away impressed by how important you are? Or do they come away impressed by how important you make them feel?

“People may forget what you say,” said Maya Angelou, “but they will never forget how you made them feel.”

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