Seven Timely Acts of Love

Updated: Aug 13

How do you show love and respect to your loved ones on a daily basis? This is an important question. Ancient philosophers and contemporary scientists all agree that relationships are key to our happiness. If we want loving relationships, then we need to give lots of love. To give lots of love and respect, we need to know HOW to do so.

I am a big fan of the book, Guide to a Happy Life, and you can read my summary of it here. Unsurprisingly, the book has a lot of teachings about relationships. In fact, the book gives us seven timely actions for a good relationship:

  1. Show consideration in a timely manner

  2. Give updates in a timely manner

  3. Give advice in a timely manner

  4. Respond in a timely manner

  5. Participate in a timely manner

  6. Ask for advice in a timely manner

  7. Check for understanding in a timely manner

(You can click on each one to jump to that section)


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These actions need to be done in a timely manner, meaning we should not procrastinate on them. If we do them consistently, then we are guaranteed great relationships with others and a happy life!

1: Show consideration in a timely manner

Showing considering is all about helping them feel calm, comfortable, and happy, as well as getting rid of their discomfort and worries.


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The Guide to a Happy Life says:

  1. In the winter, keep loved ones warm. In the summer, keep loved ones cool. In the morning, greet my loved ones. At night, check in with my loved ones.

  2. When my loved ones are ill, check the medicine first; stay by their side, day and night.

  3. Serve all parents as my parents. Serve all siblings as my siblings.

  4. Love all others equally, for we are sheltered by the same sky and live on the same earth.

(Translation note: Although the book says "parents", it really applies to everyone, including our siblings, extended family, spouse, friends, colleagues, and leaders. Hence, I translated it as "loved ones" instead of "parents." The main principle here is to feel love, respect, and gratitude for others.)


1.1: In the winter, keep loved ones warm. In the summer, keep loved ones cool. In the morning, greet my loved ones. At night, check in with my loved ones.

When winter comes, we feel cold. We don't like feeling cold, so we don't want our loved ones to feel cold. Then we take initiative to check that they have enough clothes, that the heating is working, that they are comfortable with the temperature inside the home. The same idea applies to summer.

In the morning, we can greet our loved ones and ask them how their sleep was. This shows our care.


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If they had a bad sleep, then they might be having some health or emotional problems. According to traditional Chinese medicine, if people wake up and struggle to sleep between 1-3AM, then there may be problems with the liver or stress. If people wake up between 3-5AM, then there may be problems with the lungs or sadness.

At night, we check in with the other person to see if they are calm and ready for bed, or if they have something bothering them on their mind. If they are troubled, then we can remind them to go take a relaxing shower or go listen to some calming music to get ready for sleep.


1.2: When my loved ones are ill, check the medicine first; stay by their side, day and night.

When our loved ones are ill, we need to care for them in a timely manner. For example, we can accompany them to the doctor's office or hospital. If we need to help them prepare the medicine, then we should double check that the medicine is prepared properly. When they are resting, we should be nearby and easily accessible in case they suddenly need our help.

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1.3: Serve all parents as my parents. Serve all siblings as my siblings.

When we meet other elders, we can view them as our own parents and treat them with equal care and respect. When we meet other people around our age, we should care for them similar way to how we would care for our own brothers and sisters. This kind of attitude will create harmonious and happy relationships.

1.4: Love all others equally, for we are sheltered by the same sky and live on the same earth.

Sometimes, we might like someone more than another person, or even choose not to help the people we dislike. When others need help and we do not help them, then we have failed to give timely care. We are all humans living on the same earth. We all have good points and bad points, and we are all trying our best to live a happy and productive life, thus we should support each other regardless of our differences. If others need our help, and we have the ability to help, then we should help them in a timely manner.


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Personal Experience 1: Show consideration in a timely manner

I live with my mother right now, and I always ask her how her sleep was in the morning. There was a period of time where she kept waking up between 1-3AM. That is the time of the liver. I checked with my Chinese medicine teacher about it, and after some investigating, she told me it might be because we started eating an avocado every day. The liver is responsible for digesting fats, so the liver might be overworked, hence the sleep disruption at 1-3AM, which is the time of the liver. So I followed her advice to cut out avocado for a few days, while also massaging my mom's liver meridian. Sure enough, my mother stopped waking up at night.


2: Give updates in a timely manner

Giving others updates in a timely manner (without them needing to ask us) shows them that we are always thinking of them, that we don't want to them worry about what's happening with us. Reducing their worries is one of the main ways we can show love to others (the other way being giving them joy).


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The Guide to a Happy Life says:

  1. When I go out, let my loved ones know. When I come back, report to my loved ones.

  2. Even if a matter is small, I shouldn't do whatever I want. If I do, then I am not being respectful.

  3. If a guest is looking for someone, I should go find that person for them. If that person is not here, then I will offer my service in their place.


2.1 When I go out, let my loved ones know. When I come back, report to my loved ones.

This sounds simple and small, but it can be a big deal! If your loved ones suddenly cannot find you, they might get very worried.

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In a workplace setting, if you are going to leave the office for a while, you should get permission from your manager first. Otherwise, if they suddenly need you and you are not there, they will have a very bad impression of you and think you are very irresponsible and untrustworthy. When you come back, you should let your manager know; it shows your respect towards them.

2.2 Even if a matter is small, I shouldn't do whatever I want. If I do, then I am not being respectful.

Even if our parents or manager or leader tells us to do something small, we should still report back to them to let them know that we completed it. Otherwise, they might be left wondering later, or worse, we might forget to do it. On the other hand, if we do update them despite it being a small thing, they will feel like we take things very seriously, that we are very trustworthy.

2.3 If a guest is looking for someone, I should go find that person for them. If that person is not here, then I will offer my service in their place.

As mentioned earlier, when others need help, we should try to help them at that time. So if someone arrives at our home or office and is looking for someone, we should try to help them find that person. If we cannot find that person, then we should update the guest.

In addition to updating the guest on the situation, we should ask if we can help. Perhaps the guest wants us to pass along a message. Then we should promptly pass along that message as soon as we see the person.

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Personal Experience 2: Give updates in a timely manner

There was a period of time when I was really busy, and I had lots of online meetings with different people. Sometimes, these meetings would get moved last minute, and I would forget to update my mom. Then she would come look for me, and I'd be busy in a meeting. Forgetting to update her was not very loving on my part. I could have at least written a sticky note for her.


3: Give advice in a timely manner

Love is about wanting the best for the other person in the long-term, wanting them to achieve their full potential. Therefore, if we see a loved one with a bad habit or about to make a bad decision, we need to advise them. If we do not advise them because we are afraid of making them unhappy, then we don't really want the best for them, and that is not true love.


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Think about it, who in your life is most willing to advise you even when it is not what you want to hear? Probably your parents and siblings. Even if you argue with each other, at the end of the day, you are family, and you will still love each other. Friends are probably not too willing to advise you if it makes you unhappy because the level of love is lower. So if we truly love someone, we need to advise them.

But when we advise others, we need to do at the correct time. That means we need to first establish trust with them, then wait for them to be in a good mood and environment, then give the advice.


The Guide to a Happy Life says

  1. When my loved ones have faults, urge them to improve. Use a warm facial express and a soft tone of voice.

  2. If they ignore my advice, I will try again when they are happy. Use tears if necessary, and don't resent them if they get angry.

  3. When we urge each other towards virtue, both of us will improve our moral character. If we do not advise each other to correct faults, then both of us will degrade our moral character.


3.1 When my loved ones have faults, urge them to improve. Use a warm facial express and a soft tone of voice.

Remember that we need to advise others in a timely manner. Often times, we see others making a mistake and we rush to criticize them right away. That results in conflict and unhappiness because they really don't want to hear you nagging at them at that time, and we probably used a bad tone of voice.

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Just think about yourself. How would you like to receive criticism? Treat the way you want to be treated. If we want to have a positive response, then we should wait for them to be calm and open to hearing advice. Then advise them using a warm facial expression and soft tone of voice.


3.2 If they ignore my advice, I will try again when they are happy. Use tears if necessary, and don't resent them if they get angry.

Most people don't hear a piece of advice once and then change immediately or completely. It takes time for people to change their way of thinking and their habits. Therefore, we should not get upset if they don't listen to us right away. We should be patient and keep trying when they are happy and calm.

Sometimes, if their bad habit is very serious, then we may need to use tears to move them. Obviously, this isn't fake tears. It comes from honest worry. For example, if your father is addicted to smoking, and the doctor said he is going to get lung cancer soon, and he is still smoking, then when you think of a future without your father, you might cry. When your father sees this, he might wake up and gain motivation to stop his bad habit.

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If we try to advise others and they get angry at his, telling us to mind our own business, we do not need to get upset or resent them. We probably advised them at a bad time, when they were in a bad mood. People who need love often ask for it in unloving ways because they have so much pain inside them. We don't need to add to their pain by getting angry at them. Instead, we can give them some personal space, maintain our own positive energy, and try again when we are both feeling calm and peaceful.

3.3 When we urge each other towards virtue, both of us will improve our moral character. If we do not advise each other to correct faults, then both of us will degrade our moral character.

As mentioned before, loved ones should support each other to realize their full potential. We should give each other lots of encouragement, and when we see each others' problems, we should urge each other to fix them.

Personal Experience 3: Give advice in a timely manner

Recently, I saw a friend started to sleep late at night and not taking care of her health. She even got sick. I imagine her parents would be worried about her, so I urged her to prioritize her health more. She told me she is very anxious about her upcoming test next month, so she is studying a lot. I told her, "You still have one month. The whole reason you want to pass this test is so that your parents don't need to worry about your future. If you hurt your health in the process, then your parents will worry about your sense of judgment in the future."

Although I advised her, she did not listen, and she even got a little upset. So I stopped advising her because the timing was not right. However, I have the intention and willingness to advise her. If the conditions become ripe in the future, and I get a chance to talk to her when she is calm and happy, then I would advise her again.

4: Reply in a timely manner

This sounds super obvious, yet how many of us forget to reply our messages or emails in a timely manner? Or when others call us, how many of us will say, "Hang on! In a minute!"?


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Replying others in a timely manner is about nurturing a heart of respect and humility towards others. After all, we wouldn't like a person who is self-centered and arrogant, so we should not be that kind of person towards others, especially not our loved ones.

The Guide to a Happy Life says:

  1. When others call me, I should not respond slowly. When others ask me to do something, I should not act lazily.

  2. When others teach me, I should listen respectfully. When others criticize me, I should accept it willingly.

  3. If a guest is looking for someone, I should go find that person for them. If that person is not here, then I will offer my service in their place.

(Translation note: Although the Chinese version says "parents", I translated it as "others" to make it applicable to a wider context.)


4.1 When others call me, I should not respond slowly. When others ask me to do something, I should not act lazily.

If we love someone, that means we prioritize them more than ourselves. It is just like how a parent is willing to sacrifice so much for their children. When our loved one call us or message us, we should respond right away because they are a priority in our life. At work, if our manager or colleagues call us, we should respond right away because it is our duty. The same logic applies to if others ask us to do something.

4.2 When others teach me, I should listen respectfully. When others criticize me, I should accept it willingly.

This line emphasizes humility. How can we be loving when we are arrogant? Arrogance is all about me, me, and me, and it creates fear. Love is about helping the other person feel happy, and love eliminates fear. Hence, when others criticize us, we should listen respectfully. One reason is because we want to reduce our arrogance, and the other reason is we don't want to make the other person feel afraid or upset by arguing back at them.

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Now, you might be thinking, "But what if their criticism is wrong or unreasonable?". Then use what we mentioned in part 3: give them feedback with a warm facial expression and a soft tone of voice. If they do not respond well, then they are in a bad mood. In that case, there is no point wasting your breath. Wait until they are in a better mood to discuss with them.

4.3 If a guest is looking for someone, I should go find that person for them. If that person is not here, then I will offer my service in their place.

When a guest knocks on our door or rings our doorbell, we should respond promptly so that they don’t need to wait so long. Otherwise, they might have a bad impression of our family (if visiting our home) or our office (if visiting our office).

Personal Experience 4: Reply in a timely manner

Nowadays, people are very busy and have so many messages on their phone. Although I usually respond to people promptly, sometimes I do forget, in which case I apologize.


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Oftentimes, people forget to reply me promptly. I have learned to not get upset. They did not learn to reply people promptly, so I cannot blame them for bad manners. Besides, I made the same mistake before too, so I shouldn't be so harsh on others.

When I get a lot of messages or emails, I follow the "one-minute rule". If it takes less than 1 minute to reply, I do it there and then so that I don't forget. If it needs more time to reply, then I mark the email unread to reply later. If it is a message, and I cannot mark it as unread, then I write it down on my to-do list.

5: Participate in a timely manner

When we see our loved ones doing something and we can help, then we should participate in helping them. We should not be lazy or seek to avoid responsibility. We should develop our sense of initiative and responsibility towards helping others.


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The Guide to a Happy Life says:

  1. What my loved ones like, I should try to provide. What my loved ones dislike, I should try to keep away.

  2. Elder siblings should be friendly to the younger ones. Younger siblings should be respectful to the elder ones. When siblings are harmonious, they are respecting parents.

  3. Whatever abilities I have, I should not be selfish. Whatever abilities others have, I should not look down upon.


5.1 What my loved ones like, I should try to provide. What my loved ones dislike, I should try to keep away.

To clarify, we should proactively try to give our loved ones what they like AND is good for them. We should proactively try to keep away what they don't like AND is bad for them. For example, if they like junk food, but it is bad for them, then we should still try to keep it away.

Participating in what our loved ones like is a great way to show our care for them. It tells them that we love them enough to do something we aren't that interested in because we care about their happiness. Obviously, don't force yourself to do it all the time. But once in a while, joining them in an activity that they like communicates your love to them.

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5.2 Elder siblings should be friendly to the younger ones. Younger siblings should be respectful to the elder ones. When siblings are harmonious, they are respecting parents.

When our siblings or classmates or colleagues need help or ask us for help, we should help out. Even if they do not ask us for help, if we see that they could use a hand, we should help out.


When working with others, if we are elder, then we should be friendly to the junior people and take care of them. If we are junior, then we should be respectful and humble towards the elders. This kind of attitude naturally creates harmony. When we create harmony with them, our elders will be very happy with us, and they will view us to be mature, trustworthy, and responsible.

5.3 Whatever abilities I have, I should not be selfish. Whatever abilities others have, I should not look down upon.

When working with others, we should be sincere and give our full effort to help. We should not be selfish and hold back any effort, or only help if there is something in it for me.


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When working with others, we also should not look down on other people's abilities. After all, everyone has different strengths and weaknesses. We wouldn’t want others to focus on our weaknesses and ignore our strengths, so towards others, we should praise their strengths and not broadcast their weaknesses.


Personal Experience 5: Participate in a timely manner

One time, I saw my neighbor trimming their tree. Another neighbor was helping them. I thought to myself, maybe I should help. But I also have some work to do. I decided to go finish my work first, since that is my job, then if they still needed help, I would go help out. Indeed they did need help. They were at it for the whole day.

I helped out whenever I had free time, and in the process, I got to know my neighbors much better and build a better relationship with them. I also learned some handyman skills related to using a saw and ladder. When we help others, we help ourselves too.


6: Ask for advice in a timely manner

When others ask us to do something, we might not know how to do it. In that case, we need to take initative to ask them for clear advice and instructions. We should not guess the answer. Even if we have an idea of how to do it, but we are not 100% sure, then we should check our understanding with the other person. This shows our respect, carefulness, and humility towards the person and task.


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The Guide to a Happy Life says:

  1. Even if a matter is small, I shouldn't do whatever I want. If I do, then I am not being respectful.

  2. If I have any doubts in my mind, I should note it down. Then ask someone who knows the answer to confirm.

  3. If I can get close to people of high virtues, the benefits are limitless. My virtues will increase daily, and my faults will decrease daily.


6.1 Even if a matter is small, I shouldn't do whatever I want. If I do, then I am not being respectful.

When others ask us to do something and we aren't sure how to do it, then we need to ask for clear instructions, even if the matter seems small. Otherwise, we are being careless and disrespectful. Furthermore, WE might think the matter is small, but perhaps the other person views the matter as big. So no matter the size of the matter, if we don't know, we need to ask for clear instructions.

6.2 If I have any doubts in my mind, I should note it down. Then ask someone who knows the answer to confirm.

Oftentimes, when we do things for others, we might later have some questions or doubts that come to find. In this case, we should stop, note down our questions, and ask the person. This sounds obvious, but people often forget. Later, they can't recall the question anymore, and then they might have done the task wrong, which creates problems in the future.

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When we ask our question, we also need to ask someone who actually knows the answer. Otherwise, we might get the wrong advice, which creates further problems in the future.

6.3 If I can get close to people of high virtues, the benefits are limitless. My virtues will increase daily, and my faults will decrease daily.

People of high virtues are great teachers. In a school setting, it might be a studious classmate. In a work setting, it might be a star colleague or a kind and wise manager. In a life setting, it might be a wise friend or a mentor.

"Getting close to people of high virtues" means spending time with them, asking them for guidance and instructions, and learning their way of thinking. When we have the guidance of successful people ahead of us, we can gain the success that they have had and avoid their mistakes. Such benefits are truly limitless.

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Personal Experience 6: Ask for advice in a timely manner

This past year, I made friends with someone who is very wise and many years ahead of me in the study of traditional Chinese philosophy. When I encounter problems in life related to relationships, problem-solving, or happiness, I will ask him in a timely manner, and he always provides me with great advice and food for thought. I even wrote an article on some of the major things I learned from him over the past year.

I also have mentors or teachers for Buddhism and Traditional Chinese Medicine. I remember my mother had some worries related to Buddhism, and no matter how much she discussed with me, she was still worried. Later, I had her talk to a teacher, and the teacher was able to calm her worries (and therefore my worries).

For my health, I always ask my Chinese Medicine teacher lots of questions, and I learn lots as a result. If I didn't have questions, she probably wouldn't have much to teach me.


7: Check for understanding in a timely manner

Obviously, when we are unsure of something, we should ask for advice and instruction. But even if we are sure about something, we should make a habit of checking our understanding. This improves our carefulness and humility, which will make our loved ones feel like they can count on us.


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To give a simple example, let's say your mother asks you to buy vinegar. You know that usually she buys black vinegar. But to nurture your carefulness and trustworthiness, you could check by saying, "Just to check, you want black vinegar right? Not white vinegar or apple cider vinegar?"

At this point, she might say, "Yes. Oh but I want the big bottle this time, not the usual small bottle." So when we check for understanding, some other important piece of information might come out.

The Guide to a Happy Life says:

  1. What I have not seen with my own eyes, I will not say lightly. What I do not know for sure, I will not pass onto others carelessly.

  2. If something is inappropriate, I will not carelessly agree to do it. If I do agree, then whether I do it or not, I will be wrong.

  3. Don't do many things at once; haste makes mistakes. Don't be afraid of difficulty, and don't be careless with easy tasks.

  4. If I have any doubts in my mind, I should note it down. Then ask someone who knows the answer to confirm.


7.1 What I have not seen with my own eyes, I will not say lightly. What I do not know for sure, I will not pass onto others carelessly.

One of the most common reasons people create resentment and burn bridges is by spreading bad rumors about others. If we hear bad gossip about someone, we should not spread it. If it is relevant to us, then we can check with the person to see if the rumor is true or not.

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Only after we are sure of the whole situation and all perspectives do we have the right to make a judgment. But if the matter does not concern us, then we do not need to get involved. When others see that we do not like to involve ourselves in gossip or rumors, then they will come to trust us as a truly caring and good person.

7.2 If something is inappropriate, I will not carelessly agree to do it. If I do agree, then whether I do it or not, I will be wrong.

If we are not sure about whether or not we should do something, then we need to check with someone who knows, such as a leader or an elder. If we do not check, then doing it is wrong because we are guessing, and guessing is careless. Not doing it is also wrong because we did not fulfill our responsibility, and we might have caused trouble to others.

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7.3 Don't do many things at once; haste makes mistakes. Don't be afraid of difficulty, and don't be careless with easy tasks.

Sometimes, our parents or leader or partner will say something that they want or that needs to be done, and then we rush to go do it. Or maybe we are busy, and we rush to finish it for them as quickly as possible. This kind of rushed attitude will lead to mistakes. Since we are so busy, we forget to check our understanding of the task, so we end up doing the wrong task or doing the task wrong. Therefore, we need to nurture a patient mind and remember to check our understanding before doing things for others.

If something is hard and difficult, we also do not need to be afraid. Why? Because we can ask for advice and instructions from someone who knows how to do it. Then, we should repeat the instructions back to clarify our understanding.

Even if something seems small and easy, like the example of buying vinegar mentioned above, we should still check for understanding to nurture our carefulness and humility.

7.4 If I have any doubts in my mind, I should note it down. Then ask someone who knows the answer to confirm.

Often times, we might have questions or doubts after we started doing something, or when the other person isn't there. In these situations, we need to remember to write these questions down. Otherwise, we might forget our question, and then we might end up doing the task wrong.


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Personal Experience 7: Check for understanding in a timely manner

In my weekly Chinese philosophy class, I always summarize my notes, then send it to the teacher to check, make any corrections, then send it to our class group chat. One time, my teacher was away on vacation, so I wrote, "I know you are on vacation, so it's no rush, please check these notes when you have time."

Later, he replied, "No problem."

I was confused as to whether or not he meant, "The notes have no problem. You can send them to the group." or "No problem, I will check the notes when I have time."

I guessed it might be the latter because if the notes had no problems, I imagine he would tell me to send the notes to the group. But I decided to check with him and asked, "Do you mean no problem as in you will check it later?"

He replied, "Oh sorry, I meant the notes have no problems."

If I did not check with him, I probably would have waited another couple of days, and my teacher would probably have wondered why I didn't send the notes yet.


Conclusion

Love and respect are not just empty words, they are shown on a daily basis through each and every small action. When we have loving relationships, we will have a happy life.

The Guide to a Happy Life gave us seven timely actions to build strong relationships:

  1. Show consideration in a timely manner

  2. Give updates in a timely manner

  3. Give advice in a timely manner

  4. Respond in a timely manner

  5. Participate in a timely manner

  6. Ask for advice in a timely manner

  7. Check for understanding in a timely manner

Reflection:

Which ones do you currently do well?

Which ones do you need to improve on?


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