The entire statement is, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world”. Powerful words from Mahatma Gandhi. But, what do these words really mean? I thoroughly believe social workers are born and not made. Typically, we are the kids on the playground who are bullied or witness others being bullied. We see it, we feel it, we experience it and we want desperately to DO SOMETHING, but we don’t know what to do. Or how. So sews the seeds of change. And we often find ourselves in social work school, ready to save people and change the world. Our instructors get to work immediately teaching us about critical analysis. Then, to our dismay, we learn to critically analyze our own values, morals and beliefs. We uncover and discover what we believe are ‘truths’ about ourselves and others. We learn to discard beliefs that no longer fit. None of this is comfortable. People working a program of recovery, those who have survived a traumatic event, individuals who have connection between their head, their heart, and their intuition know exactly how uncomfortable it is to make searching and fearless inventory of the self. Yet, without uncovering and discovering, we can’t discard beliefs and behaviors that keep us stuck in patterns that hurt us.
So, what does “Be The Change” really mean? Just as Gandhi suggested, change begins within. As much as I would like to think I can change people, places or things in the world, I have learned, (often through painful acquisition) the only person I can change is myself. This realization has been both a blessing, (it sure takes the pressure off) and a curse, (letting go is hard work). I must be the change I want to see in the world. If I want a more compassionate world, I need to be more compassionate. If I want less judgement in the world, I need to be less judgmental. I have found the most challenge in being more compassionate to, and less judgmental of, my self. The reality is, if I don’t begin with kindness and compassion to myself, I won’t have any to give to others. This is what it means to “Be The Change”.
Learning to “Be The Change” in my world has occurred with the help of so many others. Family, friends, instructors, students and therapists. It has often resulted from experiencing enough mental and emotional pain to find motivation to change. If this is where you find your self and you believe you might be ready to begin the journey of uncovering, discovering and discarding, I encourage you to begin. Incredible transformation happens in the world when, one by one, we learn to “Be The Change”.