Sunday Snippet: Alfred Adler (1870-1937)

“It is always easier to fight for one’s principles than to live up to them.”

You might talk the talk, but do you walk the walk? Do you really practice what you preach? When you tell someone that it is wrong to do this and it is wrong to do that, do your own personal life decisions reflect this high moral ground that you have taken?

Alfred Adler was one of the preeminent figures in the early days of psychology, best known for developing a theory that came to be known as individual psychology. This represented a distinct departure from the philosophy of Sigmund Freud; while Freud viewed the human psyche as having three distinct parts (id, ego and superego), Adler had more of a holistic approach, seeing the individual more as a unified whole.

In the quote above, Adler hits on a very important point about the difference between what we say and what we do. Hypothetically speaking, let’s say that the local government wants to build a halfway house for people who were charged for some sort of violent crime. If this halfway house were located in an entirely different part of town, many people would support such an initiative, as it would mean that the reforming criminals could receive the help they need and have a better chance at re-integrating back into society at large.

However, if that halfway house were being built on the same block as your house, you may not be quite as supportive. You may worry about the safety of your children or you might be concerned about the impact it could have on your property values. This phenomenon is known as NIMBY (not in my backyard) and it’s not at all uncommon. It is just one example of “fighting” for a certain principle but not “living” up to that principle.

I’ve said before that morals and ethics are very culture specific, but we should all strive to live up to the high standards that we set for everyone else. Walk what you talk. Practice what you preach. Be the change you want to see in this world.