Often we can feel very passionately about something in our lives. Because something has worked for us, we believe that it would also work for someone else. Perhaps we feel that we know how others should conduct their lives; what they should do, what they should eat, where they should go or how they should get there. In our self-righteousness, we even offer our sage advice to anyone who will listen, thinking that we have the answers for them, even though we often haven't even figured out the answers for ourselves. In the belief that we know what is best for others, we often push away the very people we are trying to influence and help. Instead of bringing people together with love and unconditional friendliness, we end up alienating others with our pontifications about how they should live their lives, and end up creating confusion and acrimony in the process.
If the purpose of the spiritual path is too, as Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh has said, 'to awaken us from the illusion of our separateness', then anything that runs counter to this purpose only builds walls of division between us. When we believe that we are right about anything, and that our way is the best and only way, we become the very antithesis of what true spiritual awakening is all about. In authentic spiritual practice, we let go of our cherished beliefs, realizing that they only weigh us down with useless judgements, and simply see that everyone is doing the best that they can and are exactly where they need to be. Gone are any attempts to change another human being through force, preaching, or prodding. We see that these vain attempts to coerce another person to change only serves to push them further away, and destroys any chance of true relationship.
Instead, we begin to see clearly that the greatest influence we have over another is to live through our example; where love, compassion and gentleness are seen as the greatest ways to draw closer to other human beings. When we see that everyone is doing their best, and we let go of the trying to change them in any way, we open the door for true friendship to unfold, and the possibility for true change to occur; not within someone else, but within ourselves.