Be the change you wish to see. Cliché?


Mahathma Gandhi’s one of much repeated quote is: “You must be the change you wish to see in the World”. Ghandi (1869–1948) was a lawyer, politician and spiritual leader inspiring thousands of people. One day a woman came to him and asked Gandhi to speak with her son about eating sugar. Gandhi asked her to come back in two weeks and said he would talk to the boy then. Upon their return, and after waiting for a couple of hours, she was able to approach Gandhi once again. Hearing her repeated request, Gandhi immediately spoke with the boy, who agreed to begin working to eliminate sweets. After thanking Gandhi for his wise and compassionate words, the mother asked him why he wanted them to return instead of offering his advice the first time. Gandhi replied, “Upon your visit two weeks ago I too was eating sugar.” He explained that he could not speak of or teach her son to not eat sugar if he himself had not taken that journey.

Saint Martin (316-397) was a soldier, monk, and bishop. Since his childhood he followed his internal desire to connect with God and nothing could stop him from doing this. After his compulsory military service he was searching for a credible and outstanding master to learn from that he found in Poitiers. In all of his actions he remained faithful to his views despite his father’s expectation or even during the time of persecution, and abuse. When Martin decided to withdrew from this press of Arianism, he settled down in Marmoutie and lived modestly. His simplicity drew more and more visitors and a monastic community was naturally formed around him, in which people were being disciplined after the example of the saintly master.

Today we would call it “lead by example”, which concept is now infiltrated all areas of life. What “leading by example” should mean is that our own actions influence others to behave and respond in ways that we consider valuable and appropriate. And in our days, when we are overwhelmed with possibilities why wouldn’t we select to join to something that are not composed of empty words, but roots deeply from inside and expressed through behaviour.

Text: Emese Nánási
Photo credit: Fred Mancosu