Let everyone sweep in front of his own door and the whole world will be clean.
The above statement indicates our tendency to want to reform the world by changing some other person. I think that this is a tendency that runs deep in us. You see it all the time. People threaten war. Violent people condemn violence in the Middle East but not in their own heart. We know people who bemoan hatred in the world who cannot get along with their own children.
I believe that Goethe’s idea was one of Thomas Merton’s prime principles. Merton said that all the evils of the world exist in the human heart, each human heart. Before we campaign to change the world, we must look to what is inside ourselves. “Let everyone sweep in front of his own door.”
Which leads me to some pertinent questions. Like, when was the last time I made a major change inside myself? Am I better at forgiving or carrying a grudge? Do I decry violence and then make a steady diet of TV shows which portray violence as the only solution to any problem? Do I pay lip service to spirituality but find my joy only in material things?
I do hope such questions make you uncomfortable. They do that to me. This sweeping in front of your own door involves getting very real with oneself. What does God want of me? What, right now, does He want me to change? That could be your healthiest imaginable question.
Fr. James O'Leary