If you look into a mirror, what do you see reflected? Is the light in your eyes joyous? Does your facial expression reflect peace and kindness? Is your smile patient and understanding? Do you like the “self” you see? To be liked and appreciated is a natural and deep‑seated human desire. That is why toothpaste and deodorants are sold by the millions from advertising that promises popularity for the cost of the advertised product! In poll after poll, the personal wish that appears most often is the desire to be well liked.
So, the experience of getting along well with others is no small matter! It is an important skill that must be mastered if we are to be effective and happy. How is this done? The answer may appear simple, but it is extremely vital: to sincerely like people. Successful people advise us to work diligently, think positively, but, first of all, like people. Like them sincerely and not for ego fulfillment.
A Sufi story tells a tale about a man, whose head was full of imagined knowledge and arrogance as a result, who traveled a great distance to visit Koshyar, a wise teacher. Koshyar looked intently into the man’s heart and taught him nothing, saying, “You may think yourself wise, but nothing more can be put into a full pot. If you are full of pretense, you are, in fact, empty. Become empty to fruitless ideas so that you may come and fill yourself with higher perceptions and understand the real meaning of life.”
Living is a process of learning and growing in wisdom from the lessons we learn. One of my favorite quotations states, “Life is real. Life is earnest. And the grave is not its goal. Dust thou art, to dust returneth was not spoken of the soul!” One lesson worth learning early is that life reflects back to us what we give to it. Among the greatest gifts we may offer to our world are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self‑control. These are the gifts of a humble and sincere individual and come directly from the heart. “The intellect by itself moves nothing,” said Aristotle, and modern psychology has affirmed this statement. We encounter those circumstances in life that reflect the quality of our deeper consciousness: thought and feeling, mind and heart—blended into our actions. When we exhibit those attributes in our lives, others benefit because those qualities have the effect of rubbing off on them.
Others may realize that we are trustworthy. When we deal with people honestly, and with kindness, faithfulness, and gentleness, we send the message that we care. In return, we are treated the same way, because what we give to others often comes back to us. The man who moves in accord with his inner self moves in accord with a force that no outside power in the world can alter, and he moves joyously. An internal discipline can set each individual “house” in order, allowing the self to be mastered and ruled by a power greater than the individual ego. This self‑discipline breeds the stuff of which heroes are made. Tenacity and determination are results of an ingrown faith and confidence in the great and good ends of life and the worthiness of human destiny.
When we develop self‑control, we gain a balance in our lives that enables us to live the other qualities more fully and completely. Without self‑control we lack the ability to be patient with ourselves and with others and the ability to love unconditionally. Self‑control gives us the ability to put the ego in the correct perspective so that we bring no harm to ourselves or others. When we are able to do this, we realize the true value of the ego as the vehicle for our expression and not as a tyrant that has to have its way. The ego that insists on having its own way is a destructive ego and can lead to destructive habits. Learning self‑control is a key to gaining mastery over our lives.