Years ago, I attended a conference on sustainable living in Boulder, Colorado. During one of the keynote speeches, a health food advocate made a bold request of her audience that stimulated years of thought on an important topic.
“Don’t judge me by my cupboards.”
The speaker went on to explain that her cupboards were loaded with sugary cereals and other junk food.
She had children, who had to be appeased.
Her speech was on the importance of eating a healthful diet. The point she was trying to make was that it was by her beliefs we were to “judge” her.
This paradox triggered years of contemplation on the subject of who we are.
Just who are you?
Some people contend that we are what we believe.
I don’t buy this.
I think our actions “speak” more to the point of who we are.
We may hold lots of lofty ideals, but if we don’t put those ideals into action, what good are they?
Our beliefs are important, to be sure. Our beliefs are out better selves. But our actions are our day-to-day, this-is-who-we-really-are selves.
You can attend church on Sunday morning and bask in all the glorious ideals you hold and but you cannot be content with yourself if you don’t put them into practice on a daily basis.
While our beliefs are important, you are deceiving yourself if you think your beliefs are who you are. It’s what you do that defines you. It is how you act that counts.
You can believe in the environment and the value of environmental protection, but if drive a gas- guzzling car, you are living a lie.
You can believe in honesty and treating others well, but if you lie and cheat and treat others less than well, you are living a lie.
You can believe in competition, but if you work behind the scenes to eliminate the competitors, you are living a lie.
The late, sometimes-great Edward Abbey, author of the Monkey Wrench Gang, Desert Solitaire, and other books, once said “Sympathy without action is the ruin of the Soul.”
I’m not sure we are ruined by our incongruity, but “sympathy without action” is a sign that we are living an incongruous life, which is a palatable way of saying we’re living a lie.
The cure to this malady — the disconnect between thought and action — is alignment. Living your life as much as you can by your ideals.
Don’t make excuses why you lose your temper or treat your friends, family members, or employees poorly — take steps to change your actions.
Don’t make excuses why you can’t do your part to create a greener world — take actions.
Don’t make excuses why you can’t drive the speed limit — do it!
Don’t make excuses why you can’t arrive to appointment on time — take steps to change your habits.
Align what you believe with how you act, meld the better self with the true self, and then you can brag that you are what you believe. You and others can judge you by what is in your cupboards, not in the fantasies you entertain about yourself.
Contributing editor Dan Chiras is a renewable energy and green homes expert who has spent a lifetime learning life’s lessons, which he shares in his popular blog, Dan Chiras on Loving Life. He’s the founder and director of The Evergreen Institute and president of Sustainable Systems Design. Contact him by visiting his website or finding him on Google+.