“To believe in something, and not to live it, is dishonest.”
My biggest pet peeve about people is hypocrisy, and, to be totally honest, I have judged hypocritical people (may God forgive me). For me, hypocrisy is one of the highest forms of purposeful deceit. One of the reasons why I married my husband is that he’s one of the few people I’ve met who lives by just doing, rather than speaking vacuous words (which is not to say that he’s perfect). Whenever I try to get my husband to whisper loving words to me, he always says he does romance, not speak it, which I find so endearing and adorable. As a man of action, not words, my husband is probably the quietest person you will ever meet, but his actions are louder than a bull horn — and that’s what matters most.
We all have our beliefs, and some of us act upon them, act against them, or do not act at all. When we behave against them, then we’re obviously being dishonest and doing harm. Most of us have good intentions and morally sound belief systems, but I believe that it is just as harmful when we do not act upon our beliefs. In my analogy, if you have cancer and provide it with more sugar, in which cancer cells thrive, then you’re purposefully doing more damage to your body. But how about if you do nothing, by not treating it at all? The cancer cells will continue to grow and destroy all your healthy cells, right? So inaction has the same effect as bad action.
Our inaction has dire consequences on many issues both small and large. If we believe that starvation is morally wrong and do nothing to feed those in hunger, then we are not only letting the problem exist, but also making it worse because more people will just go hungry. But if we start to donate food and feed people, then we are helping to lessen the hunger, even if we can not totally eradicate it. And just imagine if every person donated food toward feeding the hungry, we would have the possibility of eradicating the problem altogether. By our inaction, we are exasperating the problem. When we act, at the very least, we can reduce the damage.
Some people believe that they do not have to act upon their beliefs because no one will ever know their actions behind them. Perhaps in the earthly world, our secret may be safe, but in the spiritual world, we can not hide it, because the truth is still the truth regardless of its exposure. When I sneak late night snacking, I still feel so guilty because, while no one is privy to it, I know that God still knows. And the truth is that I should not being eating that piece of chocolate at 11:00 PM!
Not acting on our beliefs also harms our own spiritual karma. When we turn blind to what we believe in by not acting, then we are shutting out the possibility of love within ourselves and for others around us. It is through love that we create positive karma, which can determine the course of our lives In dishonesty, we are building our lives on a house of lies, which will eventually fall and crumble. We can not hide behind our lies forever, as our true colors will soon emerge. As Gandhi believed that if we are not living based on our beliefs, then we are not living truthfully. And If we’re not living truthfully, then how can we even begin to have a meaningful life? It is only in truth and honesty that we can fulfill the wells of our souls with real meaning.
I have also found that when you act upon your belief, you gain people’s respect and naturally inspire and influence others. For years I have tried to get my husband to lose 25 lbs. by warning him about the harmful health consequences, but it has never increased his visits to the gym. But if I just started exercising and getting in shape, then by witnessing this, my husband got motivated and started exercising more, so I have now influenced him by my action alone. Like children, we learn by example. So by doing rather than talking, you become a magnet, influencing others to make positive changes in their lives.
As we may not have all the time and resources to act upon every single belief, it’s important to act upon those that are at the core of our being. Gandhi said: “To give pleasure to a single heart by a single act is better than a thousand heads bowing in prayer.” In my life, my core belief is serving others by promoting healthy living, so if I am not actively nurturing this every day, then I’m missing the central purpose of my life and preventing my own spiritual growth. So find what drives you at the core, and focus on nurturing it every day. Our actions, not words, measure the truth of our lives, so we must do what we say in order to live a life of real meaning and purpose. As the saying goes, “actions speak louder than words,” so let your actions speak clearly and loudly for itself.
By Moon Cho, Creator of Ying & Yang Living
“Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth” by Mahatma Gandhi
“What the Buddha Taught: Revised and Expanded Edition with Texts from Suttas and Dhammapada”