Even though I excelled in my training and received recognition for my accomplishments, I wasn't as smart as I thought. A simple and powerful truth eluded me for all of those years...
For 9 years of school and three years of training I worked to learn all I could about medicine. Being excellent in medicine was a passion. I worked hard to learn the signs and symptoms of diseases along with the appropriate treatments. My goal was to the best doctor I could be. I didn't realize it at the time, but being a good doctor is measured not just by what the doctor knows. It is also measured by what the patient does.
Over 20 years after completing my training I look back and see that there was one aspect of healing that I tragically overlooked- the power of kind words. Like many doctors as part of my standard approach patients were chastised for doing wrong, for eating too much, exercising too little and failing to follow doctor's advice.
This response was an area of medicine in which I excelled. During my years in practice I have challenged, criticized, rebuked, and warned patients about their health. Most of the time these efforts failed miserably.
In the past few years I have learned a better approach, the power of kindness and encouragement. The impact of this approach should not have come as a surprise as it is clearly described in the book of Proverbs-
"Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones" Proverbs 16:24
I think of the diabetic patient who avoided coming in for almost two years. He was on my patient list but had never come in for a visit. My staff and I reached out repeatedly through phone calls and letters, over 15 attempts and never got a response. I even went so far as to ask the medical group to transfer him from my practice as I felt I had done all I could and felt it was unfair that his lack of follow up was being held against me. Then one day I made another phone call and to my surprise he answered. Instead of haranguing him about his failure to take care of himself I asked for the opportunity to help him. Overlooking the failures of the past I said I would love the chance to help him be healthy. He responded and within just a few months his diabetes was under control! Kindness worked!
It should come as no surprise that the power of gracious words is not limited to a medial office. They have healing powers in families, friendships and even in business relationships. In a culture that is increasingly unforgiving and angry we can make a profound difference in the lives of those around us simply by choosing to be kind!