The Great Secret
"What is a good man but a bad man's teacher?
What is a bad man but a good man's job?
If you don't understand this, you will get lost
no matter how intelligent you are.
It is the great secret."
Tao Te Ching
Many people are searching for the key to happiness, often going to great lengths to attain something outside of themselves, that they feel will do the trick. We often think that if we could just get the circumstances of our lives, (and particularly the people with whom we interact on a daily basis), to change, we could then relax and feel satisfied with things as they are. Yet, in the above teaching from the Tao Te Ching (the 2800 year old manual on how to live your life with joy and ease in the flow of the Present Moment), we are given the 'great secret' to feeling the fulfillment that always seems to elude us: living as an example to others, and realizing that everyone we meet is our teacher.
If we truly wish to be a 'good person', (i.e. someone who lives with an open heart, and can actually influence the energy and space around them in a positive way), then we must realize that we are a teacher for everyone who crosses our path, particularly those whom we judge as 'bad', ( i.e.; those who are living unconscious lives filled with confusion, sorrow and negativity). We teach and influence others, not necessarily through our words, but primarily through our example; through the Loving-Kindness that we radiate, and the way carry ourselves on a moment-to-moment basis. Through our example, we teach others the 'Way', the effortless flow of a life lived with integrity and harmony, and in so doing become they're 'teacher', so that they can, in turn, teach others the Way.
We are told in the above verse from the Tao Te Ching, that the people we tend to criticize or judge most harshly, are not only our greatest teachers, but are there for us to teach through the power of our example. After all, who else is going to show them what a life lived with Love, kindness and compassion looks like, if not us? If we refuse to embrace this teaching, we will constantly get caught up in our judgments about others, and the inner peace and harmony that we experience will be fleeting at best. This doesn't mean we become a door-mat for those who treat us unkindly, but it does mean that all of our actions towards others come out of a place of Love and respect for them (even if they don't respect themselves). This is the 'great secret' to having relationships that are harmonious, and having a life that is fulfilling on all levels. In being an example to others, we become a light for the whole world.