How Do I “Be the Change”?


Here is the chicken/egg conundrum. Which comes first, the work of repairing the world or the work of repairing oneself? I know angry peace activists who pound their fists and talk about the good guys and the bad guys. I know eco-activists who work day and night for a sustainable planet, burning themselves out in the process. I know insecure environmentalists who want to pit themselves against the Goliath of climate change to gain a sense of power.

You can’t get to peace through anger; sustainability through overwork; personal power through aggression.

How do you “be the change you wish to seek in the world”? I don’t know. I really don’t know. But it is what I’m here to find out.

Maybe it’s not chicken/egg. Maybe it’s heads and tails; sides of the same coin. Maybe it’s the Tango. One informs the other. A kind, wise, generous, compassionate self takes actions that make a difference and those actions in turn strengthen the core of the self. From the inside to the outside, from the outside to the inside. Which means I don’t stop doing my work, but use it as a mirror. I let my work reflect back to me where I am off course—in my heart and in my actions.

The other day, I was coaching a guy on a climate action. He was stuck and he was mad. He went off, “the guy is just wrong, it should be like this. This doesn’t work, it’s the same old, same old, I’m sick of this.” I stopped listening. I went straight to the place in my mind that I go when someone flies off the hook. A window shade gets pulled down and not even the good stuff can get to my ears (he was making some very good points, but they got lost in the noise of his anger). I took a sharpie and slashed it through his name, crossed him off my list. I decided that he had no interest in seeing another point of view, but rather enjoyed parading around in his anger, like a king in his red robe. But I was coaching him, and it was my job to listen and help him get to a new place. “Be the change,” I repeated to myself. But how?

I don’t know. But I have no doubt that the work I do with climate change will provide me with infinite opportunities to course correct. For that I am grateful.

3 comments on “How Do I “Be the Change”?

  1. We cannot segregate the human heart from the environment outside us and say that once one of these is reformed everything will be improved. Man is organic with the world. His inner life molds the environment and is itself also deeply affected by it. The one acts upon the other and every abiding change in the life of man is the result of these mutual reactions, From Baha’i Writings

  2. Wonderful, reflective, and powerful words, as always–thanks for helping us all hold that mirror up to our own advocacy my friend!

  3. This may be the hardest inner work I’ve ever done because its real, boots on the ground work. Many times that I bring up climate change I’m confronted with resignation, anger, skepticism and the like. Facing these emotions in others and not shutting down is hard. I have to and want to be my best self every time. I’ve done lots of inner work, but its mostly theoretical and done in a hotel ballroom or a cozy place away from the noise of the world. This is the real deal. So my hats off to you and all of us who are in the trenches. Perhaps on the way to solving climate change we will become our best selves, too… wouldn’t that be nice!

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