We see it all the time.
Be the change you want to see in the world.
Noble goals for sure, and ones that could impact the entire trajectory of one’s life. But what would it look like if these were truly guiding principles?
Do we know? Let’s look at some scenarios.
A piece of trash lays on the path in the park
Ugh, people are so gross. Who just leaves their trash wherever? Well, I’m not picking it up. That’s not my job!
A homeless man stands on the corner downtown, with a sign asking for financial help
Just ignore him, kids. He’ll just use any money you give him for booze.
A couple wrangles four small children around Costco on a Saturday
Why do they have to bring all of their kids to Costco? Can’t they see that I’m in a hurry? They should really divide and conquer.
You encounter a co-worker who gets under your skin
Why does she always need to take credit for everything? I’m so sick of hearing her talk about her accomplishments. She’s so insecure.
You pass a man in the aisle at the grocery store
He looks so scary and dangerous with all of his tattoos on his legs. Avoid eye contact, avoid eye contact…
You receive a phone call from a friend who seems to make mistake after mistake
I wish he would just listen to people for a change! How many times have we told him what he should do? It’s a shame he can’t get his life together like the rest of us…
I’d argue that what we think about as we process a given scenario is even uglier than the initial scenario.
The people we laud as great and positive change-makers throughout history came to their success through a series of small (inter)actions born from kindness, from responsiveness, from a personal desire to take action. They didn’t initially make the huge changes that we report on in history books; they began by living congruently with their beliefs, and making small positive impacts in their daily lives and in the lives of those around them. Kindness without fear of consequences.
We say we admire these change-makers, that we wish to emulate them, but our actions say otherwise. Instead, we’re often living contradictions who can easily spout our values in the words that we speak, but who can’t seem to carry out the message that these words contain in our daily lives.
Why are we scared to be kind? What do we have to lose?
I’d argue that we only risk losing a spirit of self-serving judgment. Sounds like something worth losing, no?
We know that we can’t control the behavior of others, yet we let their behavior and reactions control us. On the flip side, we know that we can – and should – control our own actions and reactions, yet we don’t seize this control.
I challenge you to seize it. Be the change, once and for all. Live congruently with your beliefs. Love others unabashedly, and without fear.
Pick up that piece of trash
Give your spare dollars to the homeless man.
Wait patiently as the family moves around the store
Give praise and encouragement to the co-worker
Smile at the fellow grocery shopper as you pass by
Listen to the friend
In all of this, we give of ourselves. We take small steps through small actions, but these small efforts eventually quash the fear that we’re giving something up. Rather, as we give of ourselves, we gain in return: congruency with our values. Building up the stores of love and kindness in the world.
A sense of accomplishment as we’re finally being the change we want to see.
Kindness without fear.