Byron Katie: Try to Make People Moral……

…and you lay the groundwork for vice (when you try to make people moral).  This post is an excerpt from Byron Katie’s book, A Thousand Names for Joy.  On pages 185 to 187, she says:

“Being present means living without control and always having your needs met.  For people who are tired of the pain, nothing could be worse than trying to control what can’t be controlled.  If you want real control, drop the illusion of control.  Let life live you.  It does anyway.  You’re just telling the story about how it doesn’t, and that’s a story that can never be real.  You didn’t make the rain or the sun or the moon.  You have no control over your lungs or your heart or your vision or your breath.  One minute you’re fine and healthy, the next minute you’re not.  When you try to be safe, you live your life being very, very careful, and you may wind up having no life at all.  Everything is nourishment.  I like to say, 


You cannot make people moral.  People are what they are, and they’ll do what they do, with or without our laws.  Remember the Prohibition amendment?  I hear that it was passed by well-intentioned, moral people, who just wanted to save the rest of us from the temptation of alcohol.  Of course it failed, because sobriety can come only from the inside.  You can’t force people to be sober or honest or kind.  You can say ‘Thou shalt not’ till you’re blue in the face, and they’ll do it anyway.


The best way, the ONLY effective way, is to serve as an example and not to impose your will.  I used to try to make my children moral by telling them what they should do, what they shouldn’t do, what they should like, what they shouldn’t like.  In my confusion, I was trying to be a good mother, and I thought that this was the way to make them good people.  When they didn’t do what I wanted, I would shame or punish them, believing that it was for their own good.  So in reality what I taught them was to break my laws and be very careful not to get caught.  I taught them that the way to have peace in our home was to sneak and lie.  Many of the things I was teaching them not to do, I had done myself and hadn’t admitted to them, and some of the things I was still doing even as they watched.  I expected them not to do these things simply because I said so.  It didn’t work.  It was a recipe for confusion.


I lost my children twenty years ago.  I came to see that they were never mine to begin with.  That was an extreme loss: they truly died to me.  I discovered that who I thought they were had never existed at all.  And my experience of them now is more intimate than I can describe.  Today, when my children ask me what they should do, I say, ‘I don’t know, honey.’  Or, ‘Here’s what I did in a similar situation, and it worked for me.  And you can always know that I’m here to listen and that I’m always going to love you, whatever decision you make.  You’ll know what to do.  And also, sweetheart, you can’t do it wrong.  I promise you that.’  I finally learned to tell my chidlren the truth.


It’s painful to think you know what’s best for your children.  It’s hopeless.  When you think that you need to protect them, you’re teaching anxiety and dependence.  But when you question your mind and learn how not to be mentally in your children’s business, finally there’s an example in the house:  someone who knows how to live a happy life.  They notice that you have your act together and that you’re happy, so they start to follow.  You have taught them everything they know about anxiety and dependence, and now they begin to learn something else, something about what freedom looks like.  That’s what happened with my chidlren.  They just don’t see a lot of problems anymore, because in the presence of someone who doesn’t have a problem, they can’t hold on to one.  If your happiness depends on your children being happy, that makes them your hostages.  I think I’ll just skip them, and be happy from here.  That’s a lot saner.  It’s called unconditional love.


Why would I give my children advice when I can’t possibly know what’s best for them?  If what they do brings them happiness, that’s what I want; it it brings them unhappiness, that’s what I want, because they learn from that what I could never teach them.  I celebrate the way of it, and they trust that, and I trust it.”

This is from “A Thousand Names for Joy” by Byron Katie pp. 185-187