Being An Example
By Jan Zimmerman on September 18, 2013 in Recovery
This was also something that I read during our group this week. Enjoy!
There is a story about Gandhi, spiritual and cultural revolutionary of India, that illustrates the power of being an example:
A woman brought her child to Gandhi for counsel. The hunger strikes and British embargos were taking their toll, and supplies of all kinds were very limited. She asked Gandhi to please help her child to stop eating sugar. The child was constantly craving sugar which she could not provide, and she could not bear to see her child in such distress. Knowing that it was best for the child to avoid sugar anyway, it was her hope that guidance from Gandhi himself would finally get through to the child.
Gandhi replied, “Of course, but please bring the child back in two weeks time.” He would say no more on the subject.
The mother did as asked. For two weeks she considered reasons why Gandhi would wait two weeks. Was it time for fasting or prayer, or was Gandhi preparing a special lesson for her son? Perhaps he was meditating on the subject, or in the middle of organizing some big speech. Meanwhile, her child continued along eating sugar.
Finally the two weeks were up. The mother brought back her child, by now very curious as to what Gandhi had planned. She brought the child before the revered guru and waited.
Gandhi looked at the child, took off his trademark glasses and said, “Stop eating sugar.” That was it. The mother could not hide the fact that she was exasperated.
“But why could you not have told the child this two weeks ago? What has changed from then until now?”
Gandhi simply replied, “Two weeks ago, I was also eating sugar.”
The lessons contained within this small story are immeasurable. Gandhi, being a master teacher, could have easily given a quick lecture to the child regardless of his own personal practices, but he realized a much deeper truth—our lessons are only as powerful as the degree to which we embody them. If you do not see the value in living with, and not just talking about, a philosophy/lifestyle/belief system, then you are telling the world at large and those who might seek to learn from you that you do not actually value the ideas it contains at all.
To truly teach anyone anything, you must embody the lessons with your every action. The more you keep up the rhetoric without matching it with action, the more you undermine the authority of your own words, and the more you practice living without authenticity.
The single line of Gandhi’s to the child is also important in that it is only a single line of speech. Gandhi could have easily given a long lecture to the child after he had stopped eating sugar, given that he was practicing what he was preaching. However, the significance is that Gandhi chose not to, signifying that when you live the lesson, you do not need long drawn out sermons to prove your point. When you practice truly being the example, it is more powerful than words, than gifts, than lectures. By being a living example, you create more impact by simply living than you ever could in a lifetime of talking.
Update as of 12/2/2020: the links for this post are no longer available. It came from a wonderful site called reflectionsrecovery.com.