Change the World by Starting with You
If there is one thing many people are good at, it is assessing the mistakes of others. People can tell you what's wrong with their mate. They can tell you what's out of place in the church. They can critically review their favorite team's quarterback, and correct the President of the United States.
Of course, even if those assessments are accurate, it doesn't do any good to complain. One might think they should go tell the person: tell your spouse what is wrong with them. Tell that person at church what they are doing that annoys you. Yell at your quarterback from the stands. And tag President Trump in a tweet about his mistakes. And... this likewise does very little good.
We can do better. Much better. And the secret is... You.
Jesus taught us a better way - In the sermon on the mount, Jesus said, "You are the light of the world... Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good work, and glorify your Father who is in heaven" Matthew 5:14-16. Did you see that? Other people can come to glorify the God of heaven because of what they see in you. Not necessarily what they hear you telling them to do, but what your life is showing them to be right. Isn't that awesome? You can be good. You can get better. You can watch what you say. You can be mindful of what others see you doing in Christ... and they will naturally absorb the light in your life and become better themselves!
Mahatma Gandhi echoes this beautifully - Gandhi changed the world with his ways. He was not a fighter. He did not wield the sword. But he was a light for good and an advocate for change. He said: “We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do." Read that again please and then come back. How great is that? When I change, the sphere of influence around me cannot help but change. I don't have to wait to respond to what other people do. I am too busy being who Christ wants me to be and letting His light shine through me. How liberating!
A few tremendous self-improvements take place when we put our effort into changing ourselves, instead of policing the faults of others. 1) I stop judging everyone else's shortcomings, and first look carefully to make sure a log is not sticking out of my own eye. 2) I spend much less time complaining about others, and much more time self-evaluating a better way to influence them. 3) I use my energy creating change where change can actually be accomplished: in myself.
Check out the Jordan Peterson panel discussion. If you haven't heard this week's episode, Be The Change, you can play it right here on this page, or you can do so through your podcast app. I won't detail it all here. But Peterson's final analysis is that too many people focus on "collective responsibility" over "individual responsibility." He would reject that attitude entirely. When asked if it is okay to skip individual growth to address our bigger collective issues, like climate change or world economy, he said, "No." Instead, he suggests, you work on you. If you do, the people around you will grow. Then maybe you all can affect others, affect community policies, or run for office. In other words, stop complaining about the actions of your leaders, and become one.
As you go through the rest of this week, it's okay to identify problem in others: mate, brother, co-worker. But instead of pointing out their problem, make an alteration to yourself. Speak differently. Talk about different things. Be about different things. React in different ways. And watch what happens. Very quickly they will change just by virtue of their natural reaction to you! Jesus and Gandhi got it right: Be the change you wish to see in the world.
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