In “Swami Premananda: Teachings and Reminiscences”, we read this disciple of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa emphatically asking that each of us would do well to “let your character speak” and “Teach others by the example of your lives, not by mere words.”
In the first chapter of “The Compassionate Classroom: Relationship Based Teaching and Learning”, Sura Hart and Victoria Kindle Hodson write of Marshall Rosenberg, telling
the story of a school principal he visited who was looking out at the school playground from his office window. The principal saw a big boy and hit a smaller boy. He ran from his office, swatted the bigger boy, and gave him a lecture. When he got back to his office, the principal said, “I taught that fellow not to hit people who are smaller than he is.” Dr. Rosenberg said: “I’m not so sure that’s what you did. I think that you taught him not to do it while you’re looking.” The principal did not see that he was modeling the very behavior that he was trying to stop.
In “Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion”, Father Gregory Boyle writes of his first day teaching at Loyola High School in Los Angeles in 1979.
This gentle, remarkable person whose life has been solace, and hope to many many, writes: “I was scared poopless about the prospect….I walk to my first class. I stop at the doorway of a veteran teacher, Donna Wanland….”It’s my first day of teaching,” I say to her. “Give me some advice.””
One of the two pieces of advice Donna gave Father Boyle was:
It’s more important that they know you than that they know what ya know.
If we are to stand firm as the worst traits of humanity slowly, in subtle ways, strengthen their forces today, it is imperative that each of us uncompromisingly lives the ideals. The worst in us can only be quelled by the highest in us….one of the lessons of history is that this is not as dreamy as it may sound.
H. Jackson Brown Jr. puts it memorably in “The Complete Life’s Little Instruction Book”: “Remember that a good example is the best sermon.”