“Don’t tell me what you are going to do, tell me what you have done.” I read that on someone’s online profile. People put up their profiles like ads for the internet. Quotes that are meant to tell us about the person have replaced the old ads of, “I like long walks on the beach . . . ”
I thought about the quote. It makes sense. Lots of people talk about what they are going to do, and what we are going to do is usually grand and impressive. Some people tell the story about what they are going to do right up until their last breath. It ends up being just a good story about what might have been.
What people have done gives you a much stronger measure of what the person is capable of. We draw certain conclusions from positive achievements about the character and the strengths of people. Unfortunately we also draw certain conclusions about the negative. Looking at what people have done is not an effective way of determining the value of a human being.
I don’t care about what you have done, or what you are going to do. I care about who you are right now.
We are not “human doings.” What we do, or do not do, are not the best measures of a soul. The events, the accomplishments, are events of circumstances. Some people are given the opportunity to travel the world. Some people never get beyond the street they grow up on. If someone has a grand experience we expect them to be grand. We are fascinated by it.
We lose perspective in many ways because we are focussed in the things we can measure. People praise Princess Diana for her charitable works and the monies that she donated. There is no doubt she did a lot. But she also had millions at her disposal. She had status and access to people and platforms. She had unlimited travel. She had people to tend to her every need and to arrange whatever she wanted. She did her work dressed in nice clothes, from a comfortable distance. In comparison to what she had, did she really give or do that much?
Then you look at Mother Theresa who had nothing, who gave everything, 24/7 to her work. She worked among the lepers. She bathed the sick and dying.
Yet when Diana died the world stopped.
Mother Theresa died about the same time. Very little was said or done.
I am not taking away from those events and the courage or talent of the people who accomplish these things. What I am suggesting is that when we consider the value of a person, the only impact the events have is as to the lasting impression they have had on who that person is. What did they learn from the experience? What did they gain? How has it made a difference to who they are today?
If I climb Mount Everest it is going to make a huge impact on my life, just as it would to anyone who climbed it. I find myself fascinated with people who have ordinary and mundane experiences and somehow pull something from them that makes them incredible people. I am fascinated with people who have horrible things happen to them, things that would destroy most of us, who turn it into a catalyst for some great outreach or understanding.
I am impressed by the parents who raise a handicapped child to believe that anything is possible. I am impressed by the man who makes time for his kids and who teaches them that men can be gentle as well as strong. I am impressed by the person who despite being poor themselves, gives to others what they can, not minding if they suffer in doing so. I am impressed with the person who tells the truth at great personal cost. I am impressed with people willing to say “no,” all alone, in a huge crowd of people shouting, “yes.”
Events in our lives are simply opportunities. This is true regardless of whether they are good or bad.
The value of a human being will never be found in what they have done, how much money they have, or what they look like. The value of a human being can only be found in the quality of their heart and how they manifest it every day. It is found in their response to what life throws at them, at how they learn to use life to be better people, or use it to hurt and destroy others.
Ultimately, the value of a human being is demonstrated greatly in our ability to value each other. Valuing money, looks, accomplishments in other people, tells the world what matters to us. What is sad about that is that none of these things are real or lasting. They are empty comfort in our lives.
Before we can see who people are we have to first learn to love ourselves, for who we are. We are not more loveable when we become a doctor, or lose 10 lbs, or make a million dollars. We are valuable now. If we cannot see that in ourselves, we will never see it in others.