When I teach one of my college classes in eastern religions (Buddhism, Confucianism, Shinto, Hinduism, and Taoism), I use a quote from Confucius in my introduction of the course that has always impressed me. Confucius said,
“If I am walking with two other men, each of them will serve as my teacher. I will pick out the good points of the one and imitate them, and the bad points of the other and correct them in myself.”
I suppose I like this quote because it puts the responsibility of change and bettering one’s self where the responsibility belongs – with you. In a world where the ideology that everyone else is wrong or needs to change is prevalent, Confucius’ wisdom is like fresh water to a parched soul. The only person I can truly change is myself and the closer I align myself with truth, it is amazing how my perspective of others changes too. We live in a society where many believe that in order for them to be happy, get along with others, and for tolerance to prevail, others need to change their beliefs, practices, or shortcomings to accommodate them. Or, perhaps even worse, many spend precious hours and years seeking to change others to fit them in the image of what they want them to be. Not only is this impossible, but manipulative, controlling, and just downright wrong. Even parents can get caught up in this pseudo psychology of thinking they can change their children for the better, when in the end feelings of alienation, frustration, and hypocrisy result from children feeling controlled and manipulated by their parents.
True personal change can only come from within. The best one can do, whether it is a parent, friend, or spouse, is to change themselves for the better, providing a living example of how personally working on one’s own weaknesses can bring peace, perspective, understanding, and contentment; not only for others but for one’s self. I believe this is at the heart of what Confucius was trying to say. Instead of trying to point out everyone else’s weaknesses or flaws, correct them in yourself and you’ll be amazed how you see and treat others. If we were truly honest with ourselves, we would see that the weaknesses and flaws of others that tend to bother us the most are the ones we have too. I believe that it is critical that we show others how to change by working on our own flaws, overcoming our own weaknesses, and seeking to better ourselves, thus showing that it can and does work, hopefully motivating other to do the same.
Principle: the only person I truly have control over to change is myself. Seeking to change others, no matter how well intentioned, is manipulative, controlling, and unproductive.
Application: First and foremost the best thing is to honestly examine yourself and list those things you need to work on to be a better person. Take the time to make a list of your good and bad qualities. What good qualities in others do you want to emulate? Write them down with a plan on how to implement them. Then write down your own weaknesses with a plan on how to overcome them. I give one note of caution, when working on your own weaknesses, only focus on one at a time to keep from being overwhelmed. I can honestly say that as I see my spouse working on herself and truly seeking to be a better person by working on her weaknesses and strengths, it inspires me to be a better person and to do the same.To teach your children this principle, have them list what bugs them about other people. Then have them relate times when they have done or thought the same things. Show how we need to work on the same issues as those that we see in others. When a sibling does something that just irritates the other, ask the one that got irritated what they think you as a parent should do to the other. Most of the time they will say, “Well, you need to make “Johnny” do this and that and then I’d be ok” Discuss how they could make Johnny comply with what they want. “Well, you could make Johnny do . . .” Ask if they would like you to do that you them. Of course, they would not. The point is to show them how you cannot force Johnny to change. Have them come up with ways they could change (what they could do or think), that would better the situation. Provide examples in your own life of how changing your own thinking or actions helped you to overcome how you perceived and interacted with others.
For more values and principles you can teach your children see www.whowillteachthechildren.com