Russell Gough wrote, "It is impossible to improve our individual lives or our society without genuinely caring about and striving to improve personal character." This seems like something a teacher would say, and a statement we would have enjoyed ridiculing in junior high. But if you think about it, the statement seems almost too obvious to even say.
If you would like to improve "society," the very first place to start is to improve your own personal integrity. Of course!
Or as Gandhi put it: "Be the change you want to see in the world."
a member of society, I can tell you that the only people I want working
on improving society is someone who has already explored and improved
her own integrity thoroughly.
But this is all kind of
abstract. And pointless. I don't have much control over what other
people do. But I have a lot of control over what I do. And if I look out
into the world and see something that needs to be changed, it is
perfectly legitimate for me to spend time trying to change it as long as I also spend a significant amount of my time continuing to explore my own integrity.
To try to improve the world without trying to improve my own integrity is itself a
violation of my integrity. Why? Because to whatever degree I lack
integrity, to that degree I don't see the world accurately (two of the
fundamentals of integrity are honesty and the courage to face the
facts), and if I don't see the world accurately, my attempts to improve
it may very well make things worse.
As George Bernard Shaw put it, "Better keep yourself clean and bright, you are the window through which you must see the world."
Adam Khan is the author of Self-Reliance, Translated and Principles For Personal Growth. Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.