May 28, 2015

Is it Necessary to Walk the Talk?

perfectionist girl

A lot of us think that if somebody preaches something, then that person has to walk the talk.

Otherwise we think it’s fake, that the talk has no value. For a long time, I believed this too, and was very strict and radical in my thinking. But as I started to look at the bigger picture, my mind began to change.

Don’t get me wrong. A teacher who walks the talk is special and appreciated.

But what about a teacher whose advice and knowledge is solid, but they themselves do not follow that advice? When we dismiss the entire body of teaching because someone is not strong enough to—or chooses not to—live as they preach, we miss out.

It comes down to how we choose to view the world.

For me, it happened when I began to let my opinions disappear in order to see what was real. I was rigid in my definitions of “right” and “wrong,” so I thought it would be useful to let these definitions loosen and soften. And as so often happens when we do this, a new understanding came. Now I believe that if somebody influences hundreds of people to be healthier and happier, even if that person does not follow their own advice, the advice itself is still valid.

The teacher is still important.

Take, for example, Edgar Cayce, the famous American “sleeping prophet” and healer. He advised people not to eat meat and not to smoke, though he himself would eat pork ribs and smoke cigars. Yet he healed hundreds of people. What does this mean? Was he a liar? A bad person? Should he really be called a teacher or healer?

I think we can choose to look at it either way, and it is our choice that makes all the difference. We can choose to look at it from the negative standpoint of, “If he doesn’t follow his own advice, he has no right to give this advice,” and see the advice as wrong, bad or meaningless because of the actions of the messenger.

Or we can view it from the positive lens of, “If he healed hundreds of people, helped them live longer, and changed their lives for good—including many of the younger generation who continue to read his books, follow his advice and get healed even after his death, even nowadays—then who cares if he ate pork and smoked cigars?”

It all comes down to how we choose to perceive the world.

Do we look at a bigger picture, what is good for the largest number of people or generations, or do we direct a negative, judging focus on the teacher as an individual and decide he has no right to offer advice or that he lied?

I now choose the positive scenario. In fact, I go even further and choose to see this kind of teaching as an act of complete selflessness, because—going back to the example of Edgar Cayce—even though he lived differently from what he taught, he still chose to help people, to tell them what he knew would help them even if he didn’t follow that advice himself. I choose to see this as someone living his life for other people, not for himself. When I view it this way, it doesn’t matter what the motivation of the teacher was, or whether or not he followed his own advice.

The question that matters is: Did he help people?

In a strange way, someone like Edgar Cayce actually cared for the health of others more than he cared for his own, whether he knew it or not. His advice helped thousands of people heal and have healthier lives. I don’t know if he made a conscious choice not to apply to himself the knowledge he received from higher planes, or if it was more from a lack of strength, but either way I choose to see it as selfless.

I choose not to let the motivation or actions of the teacher negate the good of the knowledge they share, for I believe it’s better to share knowledge—even if you cannot live by it—and heal hundreds of people than it is to sink into guilt and tell yourself that you can’t share knowledge until you master it yourself. That, to me, would be egotistical, a loss. It would be a tragedy for all the people who could have been healed but weren’t because of rationalization and lack of understanding of bigger picture.

“A shoemaker without shoes.”

This is a famous Russian phrase. Does the fact that the shoemaker has no shoes diminish his competence in any way? No. He is just so busy taking care of other people that he has no time to take care of himself.

A lot of yoga students judge their gurus for not living what they preach.

A lot of teachers are not teaching because they believe they first must become perfect, that only then do they have a right to a voice.

But I think we all need to start looking at the bigger picture and become less fundamental in our judgments, loosening our desire for unhealthy perfection in ourselves and others. In doing this, we will develop and improve in a healthy way, accepting and forgiving more, judging less and achieving a much better understanding and enlightenment.


Relephant Read:

Releasing Perfectionism.


Author: Nina Mel

Volunteer Editor: Kim Haas / Editor: Alli Sarazen

Photo: Daniela Vladimirova / Flickr

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