August 26     

Today's quotation:

Even when walking in a party of three I can always be certain of learning from those I am with.  There will be good qualities that I can select for imitation and bad ones that will teach me what requires correction in myself.

Confucius

Today's Meditation:

I've learned most of what I know through example.  I don't get drunk because of a constant example in my childhood of just how awful an experience that can be.  I try to encourage and help people because of a wonderful example of someone who did that regularly.  I try to learn just as much from the bad examples as I do from the good ones because if I don't, I'm losing some wonderful opportunities to learn more about which things or behaviors make people happy, and which ones contribute to unhappiness or frustration.

There are plenty of examples of both kinds for us, and we have to be willing and able to pay attention not just to the behaviors of others but also to whether or not the people whose examples we see are happy or not, whether they're living their lives fully or whether they spend time being miserable and frustrated.  It's often hard to make that judgment, of course, but if we really are to learn from others, it's important that we know what we're learning.

Another important question here, of course, is what kind of example we are.  Would Confucius say that we're examples of good qualities, or of bad?  Do other people see us and think that this must be how happy people live, or do they think that we're examples of how unhappy people live?

Perhaps if we need a way to reframe our ideas about living, it may help us to think, "I want to be an example that other people can follow if they want to be happy."  If a child sees me, will that kid think, "If I grow up to be like him, I'll be happy"?  Or does that child think, "If I grow up to be like that guy, I'm going to be miserable"?  I know what I'd like that child to think.

Questions to consider:

What kind of example do you give to others?  If others emulate you, will they be happy?

Why do so few people take seriously the fact that they are examples for others?

What kinds of example do you try to follow?

For further thought:

Example has more followers than reason.  We unconsciously imitate what pleases us, and insensibly approximate to the characters we most admire.  In this way, a generous habit of thought and of action carries with it an incalculable influence.

Christian Nestell Bovee

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