Saturday, February 3, 2018

Change Others, Change Us

“God does not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.”  Qur’an, 13:11

We spend a good deal of our time and energy trying to make an impact on our surroundings. Perhaps it is even more so in these days that seem so difficult to find our proper place in the world, a sense of alignment with our values and our aspirations and our beliefs, and our connection with a Power greater than ourselves. We may seek to make our impact in our role as a parent responsible for a growing child. Or as a career person responsible for the well-being of our colleagues, or the quality of products and services delivered to customers. Or as an aid or charity worker bringing assistance to human beings, creatures of nature, or to our physical environment. Or as an educator or spiritual teacher bringing knowledge or opening creativity to growing minds and hearts and souls. Or as an activist seeking justice in the rules and mechanisms of our society and governments in the face of conflicting views about what that justice should look like.

Unquestionably, there is much suffering that exists in the world today. The degree of suffering varies widely across the globe and across social groupings. It ranges from desperation for basic food and shelter and clean water lost in wars, to the never-satiated pursuit of extreme wealth to accumulate more “things” for their own sake.

In our efforts to make an impact of some kind in some sphere of endeavor, our view is typically outward. “They” must be supported; “they” must be changed; “they” must be reeducated; “they” must be redirected. The “they” that we rarely see in our eyes is the “they” that is doing the seeing – that “they” in the mirror. We are so often blind to the most significant “they” that there is: ourselves. Significant not because of our supposed importance, but because it is the one place where we are capable of making the biggest impact of all – and likely one of the places that needs our foremost attention. Yet it is also the place where we erroneously convince ourselves that there is the least need.

How many of our beliefs are not truly our own, but have been simply copied from others over time, without proper questioning? How limited has been our life experiences in the context of all the cultures and adventures that exist within the world? How narrow is our perspective in light of over seven billion people and 200+ nations across the globe? How much of what we believe is because mom / dad / our community or a strong role model / mentor said it was so, versus what we have seen and experienced directly? When we can come to accept that our reality is not all of reality, it opens the door for us to make one of the biggest impacts of all – transmuting our limited self to our expansive Self where true insight and happiness await.

This is not to say that our efforts to impact the world are not worthwhile or appropriate. Quite the contrary. We should certainly continue to contribute positively what we can for our companion human beings, for our community, and to the lives and fulfillment of our neighbors. But such happens best if we have first brought the honest and needed change to ourselves that is calling us. For it is in living a life exemplifying change that ultimately has the real potential to bring change in “they.” Before we attempt to clean the houses of others, we should be sure that we have first tended to the cleaning of our own house as well. Have we the courage to encounter and see ourselves for who we truly are?

©   2018   Randy Bell