Change Starts With You

If you start waiting for other people to stop being stupid, it will take too long.
~Raskilnikov, in the play Crime and Punishment
Isn’t that just the greatest quote?  Raskilnikov utters this line near the end of the play, shortly before he breaks down and confesses his crime.
He holds a theory that some men are “extraordinary” and are thus exempt from laws (like murder) when they can show how an act of evil can be justified if, in the end, a greater good is made possible. He has a few problems, however, convincing people that his murder of an evil woman is balanced out by the prevention of her future cruelty to others.
He utters the above line as he realizes that time has run out on him — no one’s going to buy his justification…

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Imagine me sitting in a darkened theater at the moment this line is uttered, suddenly startled into looking frantically for a pen to capture the quote before I lose it.   The line perfectly captures the essence of coaching, of my work in happiness, and my belief that I am the only person who can create my world.
Look at that line again.  Now, substitute for the word “stupid” just about any human trait you find irritating, and notice how true it is:
If you start waiting for other people to stop being IRRESPONSIBLE, it will take too long.
If you start waiting for other people to stop being MISERABLE, it will take too long.
If you start waiting for other people to stop being GREEDY, it will take too long.
If you start waiting for other people to stop being UNREASONABLE, it will take too long.
If you start waiting for other people to stop being UNCOMMUNICATIVE, it will take too long.
If you start waiting for other people to stop being CONTROLLING, it will take too long.
If you start waiting for other people to stop being MEAN TO ME, it will take too long.
See where I’m going, here?  It all comes back to you.  People are going to be who and how they are, and there’s nothing you can do to stop them from being how they are.  So if other people’s behavior galls you, you have only two choices:
1. Let it eat away at you until you become a victim, OR
2. Take responsibility for, and shift, how you react to other people.
I’m not giving anything away to remind you that, in the end, Raskilnikov turns himself in and thus finds peace within himself: he knows that by serving time for his crime, he’s doing the right thing.   He found the courage in himself to change how he responded to the world.
In a similar way you have the choice, every day, to hold onto your current beliefs, or not.  To justify your own actions and behaviors and always be RIGHT in every conversation, or to let go and let others be heard.  You have the choice to be in anger about other people’s “stupidity,” or accept that they are who they are, and move on.
Change starts with you.

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By the way, if you’ve never finished Crime and Punishment because it was just too long and too dense, know that this adaptation, written by Marilyn Campbell and Curt Columbus, does a magnificent job of reducing the story to just 90 minutes.  The play honors Dostoyevsky’s dark, brooding view of the world thru his existentialist lens, yet strips out a lot of the complications and multiple plotlines to bring the book’s primary struggle to life on the stage.
If you’re in Cleveland, note that Crime and Punishment will continue to run thru March 22 at the Drury Theater at Cleveland Playhouse.  According to a coupon in the playbill, if you mention that a FRIEND told you about it, you’ll get $10 off the ticket price.  We sat in the balcony and had a fabulous view of the stage in this intimate theatre — a real gem!



Read more articles like this one in: Meaning, Practicing Happiness, Relationships

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