It is exhausting. Keeping tabs on people, making sure they are behaving themselves and not doing something that they shouldn’t be.
I’m not talking about parenting. I’m talking about monitoring the behaviour of your friends and family. Because if you aren’t there looking over their shoulder to keep them on the straight and narrow, then who will?
It may sound ridiculous, but it is easy enough to find ourselves in that space, even if it is just for a little while. We watch other people’s lives as spectators, seeing where and how they fall short, and not living up to what they hoped for. When they don’t reach their dreams or achieve their goals, failing in the process, we secretly (or not so secretly) judge them from the safety of the sidelines.
Judging other people’s behaviour can feel good in the moment, but it is exhausting. Partly because you have to keep track of them, but also you need to ensure that you don’t act in the same way so that when you judge, you can feel ‘morally superior’.
I’m encouraging you to give yourself a break from that. Take some time away from it, because here is what I have discovered…
We judge because we are afraid. The mistakes that we fear making are the areas in which we are the most judgemental of others. This leads to inaction and stagnation.
So, lay off other people and face your fear. Try that thing you have been afraid to say out loud. It is such a better use of time and energy, and it may just lead to something amazing.
Thoughts are incredibly important. What and how we think create the foundations of how we see and approach the world. Our thoughts shape the way we live. So, positive thoughts are much better than negative thoughts because they have the power to create positive experiences.
Generous thoughts are amazing. Thinking about someone through a framework of generosity is one of the most positive things we can do with our mind.
But only if it leads to action.
Generous thoughts are not generosity. Generosity can only be achieved through actions.
A great theologian once said,
Suppose you see someone who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?
A generous person is not generous by their thinking alone, but ultimately by their actions.
How can you tell if you are being generous? Your behaviour will show you.
“You teach what you know, but you reproduce who you are”. John Maxwell
It’s Gandhi’s most famous quote, but perhaps the true impact of “be (ing) the change you wish to see in the world” goes beyond just doing good things, it is more about be-ing.
We can talk and use amazing language to describe what kind of family we want to have, what kind of organisation we want to work for or city we want to live in. We can lead from the front in outlining what the behaviours are we want to see from people. Heck, sometimes we can even do those things, but if it isn’t a natural out-flowing of who we are then we are just wasting our time.
If you find yourself in the place where you aren’t the type of person who does the things that you would like to see (firstly, welcome to being human), then become that person. If you find yourself in the place where you don’t like what you are reproducing in others around you, then become what you want to see in others. The beauty of it all is that you can change who you are. (Which is simple because we have unlimited access to resources to do it, but it is certainly not easy.)
If you want to see generosity in those around you, become someone who is generous. If you want to see thoughtfulness, become someone who is thoughtful. If you want to see creativity, become someone who is creative. Talking about and teaching these things won’t reproduce in others until you live it. We don’t need more people with knowledge of generosity, we need more people with generous behaviour.
You can’t just talk about things, you need to become what you want to see.