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Section 4: LIVING WITH GOODNESS - EXAMPLES

 

THE EXAMPLE OF YOU

Acknowledging Your Life’s Impact on Others

 

This group of examples highlighted individuals who have made important choices and actually done things to help others in some special way. But, before we wrap up, we should stop and reflect on one more example…the example of you. We want to help you reflect on your life and realize that, regardless of your age and circumstances today, you can impact others in good and meaningful ways. It just depends on the choices you make.

Your example is not the main thing in influencing others.
It is the only thing.

Albert Schweitzer

while we can make slight changes to our outward appearance,

Before We Start

 

Before we move into the main points of this lesson, let’s pause and reflect for a few moments on what Albert Schweitzer, who was awarded the 1952 Nobel Peace Prize, said above. In effect, he said that you really don’t impress others with the clothes you wear, the car you drive, the hair “do” you sport, or the things you may have. The only way you actually influence others is by the example you set. Most of us live our lives thinking that “things” are more important than the qualities outlined in the previous lesson. But that’s just not so…we hope the words that follow will help you value the difference.

Types of Examples

 

Examples run the gamut…

…from being good to being bad, 
…from being energetic to being lazy, 
…from being considerate of others to being totally self-centered, 
…from being a volunteer to always holding back, 
…from being personally responsible to needing reminders to get things done,
…from taking care of our physical house to eating everything in sight, 
…from never smoking to being a vaping addict,
…from being drug free to being “spaced out” frequently, 
…from being an independent thinker to always trying to “be like” others.
…and on and on we go. 

Clearly, no one fits totally down the left or right side of these descriptors or any we might use in defining ranges of personal behavior. We are better at some things than we are at others. We, in fact, have strengths and weaknesses. So, in reality, we are toward the left in some of these behaviors and unfortunately being on or near the right in others. But, regardless of our current positioning on the “example scale” we should be working to become a better example for others to follow. 

Which brings us to this very important question: 

Why should we even be concerned about the example we set for others?
 

Trying to Impress vs. Being a Good Example

 

Before answering this question, we want to point out the difference between trying to impress people and being a good example for them to follow. For the most part, we use things on the outside of us when we are trying to impress people—the clothes we wear, the tattoos we display, the car we drive, the phone we have are all examples of external things that we typically use to impress others. On the other hand, being a good example for others to follow is dependent on personal qualities that emanate from within us. 

Trying to impress is typically a momentary encounter while being a good example can impact and be meaningful to someone for a lifetime. Therefore, it is much better for you and me to spend little or no time trying to impress people and almost all of our time trying to be a good example for others to follow.

while we can make slight changes to our outward appearance,

Back to the Question

 

Now, back to the question…why should we be concerned about the example we set for others? Because, as we have worked to explain many times in this lesson library, you and I haven’t been given a life strictly for our personal enjoyment. We have been given a life to use to help others in some special way. Being helpful not only benefits others, but you and me as well. As Todd Stocker, author of Turning Pain into Purpose, explained:

Helping others is the secret sauce to a happy life.

In fulfilling this role of helping others, the one thing that every one of us can do is to set a good example for others to follow. We don’t always know specifically “who needs what.” However, we can be helpful to almost everyone we come in contact with by simply being a good and positive person…one they can respect and possibly pattern their life after as well. 

The Two Parts of Your Example

 

In the previous lesson we identified seven qualities—attitude, kindness, effort, knowledge, honesty, listening, and achievement—that are fundamentally important in creating the example we set for others. In further clarifying the example you and I set, we should keep in mind that there are two parts to our example—who we are and what we do.

The first part—who you are—is defined by your personal conduct; the extent to which you exhibit these seven qualities; and the character you exhibit in the choices you make.

The second part—what you do--is defined by how you actually use the life you have been given; more specifically, making choices and taking actions that make life better for others. 

The objective is to put these “two parts”—how you treat others day to day and what you do with your life long-term—together to become an individual who not only makes a difference with the life they live but, in so doing, is an example that influences and helps others in good and positive ways.

 

Concerning the first part, most of the lessons within the Living with Goodness library are aimed at helping those who study here become a better person and to live in a more realistic and helpful way. So, any lesson you found helpful in this regard is also helping you to improve the example you are setting for others. Improving your example is a definite side effect of working to improve yourself in some way. 

Concerning the second part, you have to start to view your life—whether you are a banker, lawyer, mother, friend, farmer or whatever—as being given to you to use to help others. It’s not about what we do for ourselves, it’s all about what we do for others.

We wish you the best as you work to get your “two parts” together and working well.
 

The greatest gift we can bestow on others
is a good example

Thomas Morell

Can a Young Person Be an Example?

while we can make slight changes to our outward appearance,

 

When we think about someone being an example of the way we should live and conduct our lives, we typically think of someone older…someone more mature…someone who is an adult. We tend to think that someone must have years of experience and have accomplished something very significant in order to be an example for us to pattern our lives after. We may even think that the best examples are people who lived many years ago and did something “of note” way back then. But, being a good example is not something that is reserved for “old people.”

As the age of many of the individuals featured in the previous examples in this section —some as young as seven years old —

age has almost nothing to do with someone being an influential example or making a choice to address a local need or even a national cause. Bottom line, age has nothing to do with you or me being an example for others to follow or in accomplishing something meaningful or important. So, let’s dig a little deeper into the subject of being an example and how the life you and I are living can influence another individual’s life in some way.

Let no one despise you for your youth, 
but set an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.

The Bible

Your Choices Define Your Example

 

Broadly speaking, the example someone sets can either be a good example or a bad one…a positive influence on others or a negative one. I’m sure you can name individuals you know who fall into one of these two categories. The important thing to note as you think about these individuals is the choices they make. Clearly, the example you set for others is almost totally dependent on the quality of your choices. Good choices, good example. Bad choices, a bad one…it’s almost as simple as that.

So the point here is this…you have control over the example you set for others through the choices you make. You enhance your example by making good, effective, and meaningful choices. You damage your example when you make poor, dishonest, or even unlawful choices. The example you set is not something that “just happens.” It’s something that you create yourself.

People often say that this or that person has not found himself yet.
But the self is not something one finds,
it is something one creates.

Thomas Szasz

Setting an Example/Making a Difference

 

Many of us look around and can quickly identify problems that need to be fixed, but then do little or nothing about them. Maybe a park needs to be cleaned up. Maybe the animal shelter needs more volunteers. Maybe a special project within the school needs someone to lead it. There are dozens and dozens of such situations in every community, circumstances where the need is known, where the potential benefit would be significant, but no one is really doing anything about it.

It may be understandable why such situations exist. Funds are limited, leaders have other priorities, and we have our own personal problems to worry about. All of these reasons may be valid and, to some degree, justify the lack of action. But it doesn’t have to remain that way. If just one person is motivated to do something and is willing to work at it, they can improve almost any situation. It may take time. It may not be easy. It may have the odds stacked against it, but it can be done. Many of us are aware of important needs. But to actually make improvements, someone has to be willing to do something as well.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

while we can make slight changes to our outward appearance,

You can make a difference
Remember that you—as you are right now—can be the difference in making some circumstance or situation better. You can be the starting point in getting a community problem resolved or individual needs within your community addressed. Your choice to actually do something can be the difference in making life better for someone in need right now.  

Don’t wait to make a difference
Don’t wait…until you have more time or you are older or you have more money. You can make a difference right now. You may not be able to do everything you would like to do, but you can do something to help others in some special way. Do what you can and never worry if it’s enough. 

People will follow if someone will lead
The idea that something needs to be done to improve a situation is almost always supported. Getting others involved is where things come up short. But when people see that you are taking action, that you are in fact starting to work on a problem, many will join in to help you make it happen. We need individuals to set things in motion. You can be the one to do so. Identify a problem, analyze the need, and take the first step in bringing change. 

Your choice today can have long-term benefits
Although problems may start out small, they can grow and become serious situations impacting lives in significant ways. The fact that you start to work now to improve circumstances could head off even bigger problems in the future and make life much better for people for years to come. Don’t walk away from a problem and assume someone else will fix it. Don’t use the excuse that someone else is better able to meet a need. Nothing will ever change if we all turn away from a person that needs a helping hand or a situation that needs attention.
 

while we can make slight changes to our outward appearance,

So what will you do when see or become aware of a need, an issue, or problem that you could address? A lot of people will talk about things that need to be done. But it takes an individual who will stand up, heed the call they are feeling, and go to work to make life better for someone around them. That individual can be you. You can be the difference . . . if you make the choice to do so…you can be a great example for the rest of us to follow.  
 

The purpose of life is not to be happy but to matter, to be productive, 
to be useful, to have it make some difference that you have lived at all.

Leo Rosten

Questions/Discussion Points

 

1.

How would you rate (1 to 10) the current example your life sets for others?
Why did you rate yourself this way? 

2.

What can you do (specifically) to improve the example you set for others?

3.

Why do you think it is important that you make the change or adjustment
you identified in response to the question above?

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