Goethe wrote, “Let everyone sweep in front of his own door and the whole world will be clean.” This statement made me consider a thought that I don’t have often enough: that one way to improve the world around me is self-improvement . Paul makes a similar point: “I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize” (I Corinthians 9:27). In other words, to influence others I must improve myself.
In communication theory, one of the ways researchers have found to improve the way we communicate is not to change the other person, but to change our response to that person. Maybe the problem with communication is not with others, but with ourselves.
Jim Rohn said, “To be successful in life work harder on yourself than you do on your job.” When we seek to improve the quality of life we want to begin with ourselves. Work on self to be a better influence in the world.
The apostle Paul was a believer in self-improvement, as we can tell by the earlier statement from him. He also reminded Timothy of the potential we have for self-improvement: “ For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (II Timothy 1:7.) And Peter wrote this among other traits to develop, “…add to your faith virtue” (II Peter 1:5.)
A familiar dialogue between Jesus and a rich man illustrates the need for self-improvement. Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life? “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments. “Which ones?” he inquired. Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself. “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?” Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth” (Matthew 19:16-22). He still needed to work on himself.
As Paulo Coelho wrote, “When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better, too.” Our Christian light will shine a little brighter with continual self-improvement.