You know that saying, “Be the change you want to see in the world”? Apparently it isn’t something Gandhi said. But it is a truth that shows up in many places.
First, here is what Ghandi did say.
“We can change the world by changing ourselves from the inside out. We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do.” – Mahatma Gandhi
This is a truth recognized by thought leaders from multiple spiritual and other traditions. In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a few quotes that touch on these truths are below.
From Ezra Taft Benson’s talk, “Born of God” given when he was president of the Church:
“The Lord works from the inside out. The world works from the outside in. The world would take people out of the slums. Christ takes the slums out of people, and then they take themselves out of the slums. The world would mold men by changing their environment. Christ changes men, who then change their environment. The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature.”https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/liahona/1989/10/born-of-god?lang=eng
From President Russell M. Nelson, current president of the Church:
“When the focus of our lives is on Jesus Christ and His gospel, we can feel joy regardless of what is happening—or not happening—in our lives.”
From Bonnie Oscarson, former president of the Young Women organization:
“I believe that most members [of the Church] consider service to be at the heart of their covenants and discipleship. But I also think that sometimes it’s easy to miss some of the greatest opportunities to serve others because we are distracted or because we are looking for ambitious ways to change the world and we don’t see that some of the most significant needs we can meet are within our own families, among our friends, in our wards [congretations], and in our communities. We are touched when we see the suffering and great needs of those halfway around the world, but we may fail to see there is a person who needs our friendship [right in our own close circles].”“The Needs Before Us” — https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2017/10/the-needs-before-us?lang=eng
And from the Church’s 12-step personal change guide (some would think it’s only for those who struggle with unwanted compulsive or addictive behaviors, but I have experienced it as a guide to deeper conversion to Jesus Christ).
“[Through this process] you begin an amazing adventure in relating with a new heart to yourself, to others, and to life. You are ready to contribute peace to the world rather than add contention and negative feelings. You are willing to give up judging anyone unrighteously and to stop taking inventory of others’ lives and faults. You are ready to stop minimizing your own behavior…and live a life guided by principles rather than by shame or fear.”https://addictionrecovery.churchofjesuschrist.org/steps/8?lang=eng
At a time when it can be easy to focus on what others “should” be doing in order to make the world a better place, wise leaders, past and present, encourage us to look inward first. When we are in a place of peace and our choices are consistent with our deepest-held beliefs, principles, and values, we will be more able to know what God would have us do in our spheres of influence to serve others and to help the world be a better place.