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Is Your Own House Clean?

The goal of this question is to reminds us to pause and reflect before fixing or forcing people and situations to yield to our beliefs or plans.

Years ago I came across this question in The Tao of Leadership by John Heider, who beautifully explores Lao Tzu’s teachings on the Tao Te Ching, an ancient manual on the art of living.

Heider uses the metaphor of a clean house as a way to move people to think about their own weaknesses first before judging others.

The goal of his question is to reminds us to pause and reflect before fixing or forcing people and situations to yield to our beliefs or plans.

Initially, this question stopped me in my tracks. The elegance and simplicity of the question helped me immediately understand its essence, not just from my head but from my gut.

Is my own house clean? Asking myself this question every day since has changed my life.

It has given me a way to hold myself accountable for my every thought, word, and action. It reminds me to take inventory of myself before I judge another. It forces me to look in the corners of my mind and in the closets of my heart to assess what I’m hiding behind or not willing to see. I have no choice but to come face to face with my fears of not being liked and of being passed over or judged. For my house to be clean, I must get honest about my insecurities and doubts. I have no escape from recognizing when I am not being truthful.

I have a trick to remember to ask myself, and it works every time.

Before judging another, lashing out, speaking seething words, or acting in a hurtful way, I pause, cross my fingers, and then ask, “Is my own house clean?”

I often get a gut level answer that takes me back to a moment in my life when I acted unconsciously.That memory comes and goes in a flash, but it remains with me long enough to cause me to pause and choose a more conscious way to act and a more compassionate way to communicate.


Pausing in the space between stimulus and response, as Viktor Frankl brilliantly teaches in Man’s Search For Meaning, is how we wake up and shift our perspective. When we are honest with ourselves about the cobwebs in the corners of our own minds and hearts and the imperfections of our own humanity, we can soften our grip on the need to judge and condone others.

Asking yourself this question doesn’t mean you’ll never get pissed off. It also doesn’t mean you’ll never pass judgment on another person again. Rather, asking the question creates the space for us to access what’s happening inside versus outside ourselves. Pausing before we put a foot in our mouth or tell a white lie simply means we are slowing down our reactions. When we pause in the gap between the stimulus and response, we can evaluate the situation and ourselves with clarity and compassion.

My advice for incorporating this clean house practice into your life is to start small.

For example, before you judge someone for driving fast and cutting you off you, pause and recall your own actions when you’re stressed or simply in a rush. Before you judge someone for making a mistake on a proposal or arriving a few minutes late for a meeting, pause, cross your fingers, and call to mind a time when you’ve slipped up or were late to an appointment.

Remember, the power is in the pause.

When you cross your fingers, turn inward to reflect, and take a deep breath, your perspective will shift and you will likely choose a more mindful way to proceed. You’ll still offer advice and call people on their actions, but you’ll do so more consciously and compassionately.

By pausing to reflect on your own actions, you alter how you move in the world.

By asking yourself this question, you discover how to judge less and allow more. You discover how to keep your own house clean.

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Cara Bradley

Cara Bradley, a former pro-skater for Team Rollerblade®, is a yoga teacher, mental strength coach, author, and entrepreneur having devoted more than three decades to movement disciplines and personal transformation.

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Barbara VercruysseGail LimingRubina fazalJayJayNoelle Dodge Recent comment authors
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Barbara Vercruysse
Member

Thank you for this insightful article, Cara!! Sharing on my Fb page <3

Gail Liming
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Gail Liming

Quite an insightful article. I never felt I persuaded anyone to believe what I believe. It’s difficult when seeing another continually making the same mistakes to ignore that. In the past, I’ve nudged an individual to think in different terms as a form of therapy for this person and that probably helped me too along the way also. The lesson learned is you can’t change a person, they must learn on their own, but make them aware that there is an easier way to go about life. My words were heard for the most part in coaching this person along in life and today is successful. I thought previously there was no help, with maturity the outlook became more broad instead of wearing blinders. Miracles never cease. Thanks for writing that article.

Robina fazal
Member

Nice…meaningful and v.realistuc article..Thanks .Cara Bradley…You described in a v.nice ways…That why others do is there open behaviour…and own nature good or bad notions..firstly we have to see wht our roles in making any situation or behaviour good or bad..it’s who who have to see had we show any mistreat behaviour.. did we feel more.. did we think more..or keep negativity about some things take our patience at times away dud we show aggressive.. irritable behaviour sometimes
So main thing start to feel and test your inner goodness and negative notions.. Sometimes as in my case I mostly faced bad ,arrogant…aggressive…useless drama from specialy family members from father side..I tried my best to be loving kind and friendly..but they mostly used my sensitivity to clear their paths…to get the most benefits from us..but never thought for be true to our three..Daughter..father and younger brother..my father want to terms with them..I let them in at times..they didn’t do any harm..but causes ridiculous drama and tension specialy for me..So I tried my best not to get upset.. deal them ignore and let go their behaviour and instincts to cause drama and take benefits..as money.. utilising our time…for their purposes..now from 7,8 years I am at a stage.. with my will power..I requested pappa I want to meet them rare.. they upset our lives..at last pappa convenienced from 3,4 years that I am not bound to meet them..as much time I can give them I will..they will sit with you and share with you…we Sister and brother….Will be with them as possible.. but we don’t wanna long terms with them…pappa is conveniences at last that I should get the privàligrs to utilise my time for more good positive activities rather than have family terms with them..we family of three are ok..with each other pappa me…and brother .it’s v fine..my future plan is to achieve me goals and pappa is quite happy and wish I’ll do my best and can achieve my desires and goals…Amen…So I now more try to be happy and cut my time and energies in more positive productive ways …hope I’ll be successful…love and blessings for my family and friends The Royal family.. 💖👑💐👍💫Stay blessed

JayJay
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JayJay

Good thoughts ! TYjayJ a y

Noelle
Member

Great Reminder. When I would facilitate psycho-social groups we consistently asked the group members to look at their own “house” and find compassion in frustration. Great article. Keep them coming.