Being the Change You Want to See (in One Particular Situation)

Be the change you want to see in the world, and in your one particular relationship
Photo by Ross Findon.

When I think about the saying "be the change you want to see in the world", which was, apparently, falsely attributed to Mahatma Gandhi, I usually think about general, global sentiments, like creating a world with less hatred.

After watching this School of Life video, I think I have been missing a big part of what it can mean to be the change I want to see.


Being the change you want to see in the world isn't (or at least, doesn't have to be) just about vague, sweeping notions of what kind of world we want to live in. It can be about very specific people and issues and being the change we want to see within one relationship.

This seems especially relevant when it comes to relationships with siblings, parents, and partners. The people with whom we spend decades developing a dynamic. Where we are really entrenched in "how things are" between us.

It can feel dangerous to be the change in these situations. We might know that the first instance of kindness or generosity will be seen as opportunity on the other side, that we will be taken advantage of instead of met on this new level of interaction.

(That probably means that we need to remember that boundaries can still exist in relationships full of kindness and generosity.)

It can also be manipulative, like, "I am going to be nice to make them be nice," or, "I am going to prove that they are incapable of empathy by bringing so freaking much empathy to the table it crushes them."

(It's possible that is not quite what it means to be the change.)

They don't say this in the video, but I think the ultimate reason to be the change we want to see in a relationship is simply that life will be more pleasant for us if we do. Life is better when we approach it with empathy, kindness, and generosity. It's not easier - those things take effort - but it seems more pleasant, on the whole.


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