“What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
Too often, our words get drowned in the noise of our own behavior. We tell others to live and act one way and yet fall woefully short ourselves.
This is inevitable because we are all imperfect beings. The problem is not so much that our words can’t be heard when measured against our inconsistency, but that we sometimes hold others to a standard we fail to hold ourselves to.
Humility is the best Hearing Aid
To teach one thing and fall short is okay if humility puts us in the same boat with those we’re teaching, trying to live the principles being taught together.
On the other hand, we lose respect and attention when our hypocrisy takes us out of the boat altogether, elevated in our own minds above those we’re teaching all the while they can see our utter failure to live by the pretended standards our words are preaching that our lives are violating.
People are forgiving of honest weakness. They are not of pretending virtues. They listen to honesty. They walk away from hypocrisy.
The Antidote to Being Human
There is an antidote, however, to the very human condition of being inconsistent in living up to the standards we want others to adopt. It’s to live honestly and authentically with a large dose of humility.
There’s a huge difference, after all, between: “You screwed up! Do it this way!” and “You screwed up! I’ve done the same thing, though. It can be difficult, I know. This is what I did to improve. Try it out and let’s talk again next Tuesday.”
What’s the Difference?
The former creates an artificial superior-inferior relationship (especially if our hypocrisy is known—and it usually is, even if we think we’re pretty good at hiding it). The latter puts us side by side, working at life together.
The former breeds contempt and resentment. The latter breeds respect and admiration.
The former emboldens excuse and rationalization. The latter inspires effort and resolve.
Try it out and see if your voice isn’t finally heard above the clatter of your fallibility. Next time you need to counsel an employee, a child or student, climb into the same boat they’re sitting in. Get human. Be real. Trash the “better-than” pretense and start pointing at the same goal you both are working together to reach.
Then let me know what you think in the comments.
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