5 Rules to Live By
by China Brooks
1. Give Advice/Opinion Only When Asked
When we give others our advice and opinion without being asked, it can cause resentment. Unfortunately, that’s usually the opposite effect of what we intended. We can come across looking judgmental, authoritative, and controlling.
Sometimes we offer advice because we believe we have the other person’s best interest at heart. But how do we know what is best for them? We are not walking in their shoes. We don’t see the world from their perspective. Who made us God and the world police? When did we get the authority to tell others how to live and to change? Would we like it if others told us how to live?
We can however; be open for healthy, constructive criticism. I don’t get defensive when someone tells me I need to change. Depending on who it is, of course, I welcome honest feedback. I pay attention, listen, and I see if they are in fact correct. If there is any truth to what they are saying to me, I go to work to change.
There are a couple of reasons why we offer unsolicited advice and opinion:
- We want the other person to change. It's easier to ask someone else to change than it is to take responsibility and change from within. Perhaps we feel that our lives would be better if they would change. This is untrue. Change is an inside job. If we are unwilling to change ourselves, we have no right to ask another to change. Change has to start with us. This is exactly what Gandhi meant when we said, "Be the change you wish to see in the world."
- We think we are right. We believe that we are correct and that we have the right answers for what everyone should do. Instead of being wise, we simply have a limited view.
- We think we will feel better if they change. "Home-girl would be so much better to be around if she would only stop..." I used to think that if those around me would stop gossiping and doing a ton of drugs that it would make my life better. But what really needed to happen was for me to stop gossiping and for me to stop doing drugs. When I changed on the inside, my environment changed. But even so, I had no right to tell others to change when they never asked me for advice. I can only change myself and I can only live by example. It's like Jesus said, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." That sure isn't me.
2. Pay Attention to the Feelings of Others
“When you hear someone criticizing you, pay attention because it says something about them.” –Julie Brooks
A lot of times we make fun of others because it takes the attention off of our own deficiencies and low self esteem. I had a friend, when someone would confide in him about a problem or lack in his or her life, he would immediately make fun of it. He would also make fun of himself, calling himself “fatty.”
When someone pours out his or her innermost secrets to us in a private, personal way, it’s offensive to turn around and make fun of it. It ruins trust, hurts feelings, and makes people defensive. Have you ever known someone who would use your secrets against you when they were mad at you? It’s the same sort of thing - abusive.
I know that some people live by sarcasm. Some even claim to be a part of the International Society of Sarcasm. I’m not telling anyone not to be sarcastic. Sometimes it’s funny. What I’m talking about is when it crosses a line and hurts the feelings of another person.
Now granted, we are not responsible for the emotions of other people. When someone else gets butt hurt, sometimes they just need to grow up and stop blaming everyone else for their lack of self-esteem. However, we can learn to be more aware of when we are making fun of others in a way that hurts their feelings. Instead of tearing people down by making fun of them, let’s build people up.
3. Give/Offer Help Only When Asked
There are times when offering help without being asked is a good thing. Helping children and the elderly are examples of this. But when someone who is fully able to fend for himself needs help, we have to look at the reasons why.
- Sometimes helping can do more harm than good. People need to learn from their mistakes. If we are always rescuing them from the consequences of their actions, they never learn. They never grow up to be a person who can deal with their own problems. They look to others to fix everything in their lives. People have to learn to find solutions within themselves. They must learn how and why it’s best to rely on themselves. This is part of them knowing that they are powerful. When we fix everything for another person we actually leave them powerless. It’s just as the parable says, we can teach others how to fish instead of fishing for them.
Sometimes helping is co-dependent savior mentality.
We all want to feel wanted and appreciated; it makes us feel good. But approval is best when it’s generated from within. We need to approve of ourselves first. The more we approve of ourselves from within, the less we need external validation. Relying on external approval is dangerous. When others are happy and pleased with us, we feel good. When others are displeased with us, we feel bad. This way, we are susceptible to the emotional whims of everyone around us. Usually, the approval of others is contingent upon whether or not we give them what they want and act in the way they want us to act. The moment we stop doing what they want, they might withdraw their approval. If we depend on external approval for our self-esteem and self worth, we’re in trouble. Often times when we find ourselves in savior mentality, it’s because we want everyone to like us. The reality is, we need to ‘save’ ourselves. Meaning, we can only give to others that which we have given to ourselves first. Savior mentality is scary because it sets us up as this holier than thou wise authority who knows what is right for everyone. Savior complex usually means that the person has deep issues themselves that they don’t want to deal with. It’s draining and co-dependent, keeping the ‘savior’ distracted so they don’t have to face their own inner turmoil. Instead of saving others, which we don’t need to do, we can set an example in our own lives by the way we live. This way we empower others to know they have the power within themselves to handle anything in their lives. We can show them, via our own lives, that they are more powerful than any circumstance and situation. If we keep rescuing them, no one wins. It’s dis-empowering all the way around.When people keep creating problems in their lives, they are in a toxic living pattern. Diving in and helping pulls this toxic energy into our own lives. Some people love drama; they are entertained by it and they feed off of it. Just say no.
4. Work Only to Change Ourselves
Do we want others to try and change us? Most of us do not want other people telling us how to live. When others try to change us, it’s annoying. Sometimes the other person comes across as if they are claiming to be smarter and more successful at life. When we try to change others, we come across the same way.
Granted, sometimes we want the advice of another person who is more successful than we are. We want to hear what they have to say and we are ready, willing and able to change. In this case, the person giving the advice truly leads by example.
But most of the time the advice we are given was not asked for. It’s unwanted and given by people who are less successful than we are. Most of the time people want us to change because it’s easier than them having to change themselves. They believe that their lives would be better if we changed. When in reality they are the ones who need to change.
5. Correct Others Only When Asked
I have an agreement with my friend who is an English teacher. I want her to correct me if have improper spelling and grammar. But that is an agreement we have previously made between the two of us. In life, this is not always the case. When we correct others without having been asked, we can come across as presumptuous. It can seem as if we are saying, “I’m smarter than you and I know more.” It can make the other person feel stupid, especially when they are corrected in front of a group of people.
Usually we correct others because we genuinely believe we are right. But sometimes we open our mouths without having done enough research. We aren’t entirely clear on what the other person is saying, why they are saying it and what they really mean.
These rules are a fast track to inner peace, serenity, and compassion. They help us to live in the world and not be so disappointed by others that it paralyzes us. We are freed from the suffering that unrealistic expectation causes. When we cease trying to change others, we focus on being the change we wish to see, and we become active examples (like MLK and Gandhi) of those who take responsibility for the Divine Birthright and Inheritance of man as God in expression.