Once in a while, I’ll make the mistake of getting caught up in watching the national news—which is, in my opinion, not always a good way to begin the day. Although I find ways to stay informed about world events, rarely do I tune in to the glorified dismay broadcast by the media. In order to maintain a positive outlook and continue to deliver my lectures with enthusiasm, I find it best to stick to the weather and how the Red Sox did the night before (although if they lose to the Yankees, that can actually dampen my mood for a day).

On one particular occasion, though, I found myself trapped by a story. (If you’re a pet owner, you’ll surely understand why I couldn’t change the channel.) It was about a six-week-old puppy that had been intentionally thrown from a moving car onto a busy highway. He had been badly injured and instantly became a target for other drivers who may not have had time to react to what had just happened. It seemed as if this poor little guy had no chance of surviving. Soon after witnessing the vicious act, though, passersby began to stop; and one woman got out of her car, heroically rescued the puppy, and called for help. Her compassionate heart, along with the kindness of a veterinarian who donated the majority of a $3,000 surgery, ensured that this little dog would not only live, but would run and play again very soon.

While this unfortunate event had a happy ending, it also had a profound threefold effect on me during the 120 seconds it was on the air. First, there was heartbreak from seeing the puppy suffer, next came joy for his survival; and finally, absolute rage toward the person who committed the horrendous crime. I just couldn’t understand how someone could be so cruel. I was furious. As a dog lover, the story haunted me all day. Furthermore, I couldn’t find a way to let go of the fact that the scoundrel who did this got away.

What followed was even worse—I had the sensation of absolute hopelessness. After seeing such a horrible act of unkindness, I felt beaten down and actually began to question my life’s mission of creating a kinder world. Wondering if I was really making a difference, I thought, Is it really worth it? How can I possibly make an impact with people like that out there? I was ashamed of my thoughts, discouraged, and somewhat depressed.

Later that afternoon, still needing to vent about the coldhearted puppy assailant, something compelled me to tell my teenage son what had occurred. In medialike fashion, I recounted the story, perhaps hoping to bring him down with me. (Misery does love company, after all.) But as I angrily reported the news to him, expecting agreement with my “What’s the world coming to” attitude, I received the lesson of a lifetime.

Without any hesitation, Alex said, “Dad, you keep focusing on that one guy and the unkind thing he did. What about the people who stopped to help, the woman who rescued the dog, and the vet who saved his leg? Don’t you see that there was more kindness happening on that day than unkindness?”

I was dumbfounded. He’d taken a day’s worth of mental suffering and transformed it in a matter of seconds. By simply changing my perspective, his words ultimately changed my heart. Thanks to the amazing wisdom of my son, this fresh viewpoint sent my spirit soaring and gave me a renewed sense of hope—yes, the world is full of good people; and yes, this mission is worth it.

The well-known author Erica Jong once wrote: “Take your life in your own hands, and what happens? A terrible thing: no one to blame.” The following examples are situations that show two different perspectives. One is the victim’s view, while the other is the heart’s perspective of personal responsibility.

A young woman is continually abused (verbally) by her spouse.

Victim: She accepts her situation, and at times even believes his unkind words are true.

Responsibility: She chooses to leave him, take control of her life, and work at a shelter for abused women.

A man is unjustly fired from his job.

Victim: He becomes angry with everyone around him and remains bitter for years.

Responsibility: He chooses to see this event as an opportunity to do something he actually loves.

An 80-year-old woman is mugged in her neighborhood.

Victim: She vows to never go outside again due to her fear of strangers.

Responsibility: She chooses to start a neighborhood watch program and take a class in self-defense.

A mother loses her daughter in a car accident that was caused by a drunk driver.

Victim: She chooses to remain depressed for years, while harboring hatred toward the drunk driver.

Responsibility: She creates a support group for other parents who have lost children to drunk drivers.

A man experiences the heartbreak of a painful divorce.

Victim: He refuses to ever trust women again and vows to never remarry.

Responsibility: He chooses to move forward; and knows that with time, healing, and forgiveness, he will one day learn to love again.

As you can see, there’s tremendous power when you shift your perspective from a place of suffering to one of service. If you feel that you’ve ever been a victim in your life, it’s time to change that belief right now. Moving from an egocentric “poor me” role to a place of contribution transforms weakness into strength. When you look at all of your past hurts, big or small, as an opportunity to serve others, you’ll become a powerful creator and accept full responsibility for your circumstances.

Affectionately known as “The Kindness Guy,” Michael J. Chase is an author, inspirational speaker, and a powerful voice for creating a kinder world. At the age of 37, following a life-changing epiphany, Michael ended an award-winning photography career to found The Kindness Center.