Recently in my readings I ran across a great quote from Leo Tolstoy in his essay, On Anarchy. He says, “And yet in our world everybody thinks of changing humanity, and nobody thinks of changing himself.”
Think about that for a moment. How many of us are willing to change ourselves? It seems like we all want to change everyone else, make them more like us. After all we are right. They are wrong. The Catholics want the Lutherans to change. The Lutherans want the Catholics to change. The Suni’s want the Shiite’s to change. The Hindu’s want the Budhist’s to change. There are divisions among states, countries, continents, races. These divisions lead to wars and calls for violence. Etc. Etc. Etc.
As I read Tolstoy’s quote, I was reminded of President JFK’s most famous quote, “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” In a way, these quotes are similar. JFK was talking about doing something for your country though. Tolstoy was talking about changing yourself for yourself and in so doing, helping society – your country.
It is also a little like Pay it Forward. When something good happens to you or someone does something good for you, pass it on. In no time our society could be transformed. We would no longer need an overreaching government nanny. We could probably reduce our armed forces. Everyone would want to be our friend. Our motives towards them would be pure.
This concept of changing yourself is also a lot like the Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Tolstoy was an anarchist. But he was on to something here. We would not need government at any level if it were not for some people taking advantage of others and other people trying to change their neighbors. Most of what government does could be done cheaper and more efficiently if we could trust our neighbors motive.
Can you live by the golden rule? Can you pay it forward? Can you change yourself? If you want to help your country, if you want to improve society, if you want to eliminate the nanny state that is becoming more and more powerful each and every day, begin at home and change thyself.