Since I wrote a book a few years ago titled The Five Principles, about the spiritual laws that are the basis of Unity's teachings, I've had the opportunity to talk to people about how they practice the principles in their lives and apply spiritual teachings to their circumstances.
I've noticed that even we longtime spiritual students get stuck in the same place. Whether we are praying for others, trying to create a different experience, or see the divine in human beings, we keep hitting one big stumbling block: We want other people to change!
We torment ourselves with what others are doing or not doing, especially if we love them. We want to fix them, heal them, set them straight—all for their own good, of course.
So I propose a Sixth Principle: Mind Your Own Business.
Jesus put it more tactfully when he said, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God.” He meant you should focus on your Higher Self and your spiritual path. That's the work we are here to do. Everything else will fall into place.
There are three primary ways we fail to mind our own business, and each is born of good intentions:
We try to control other people.
We let others control us.
We worry about and want to change conditions in the world.
Every time we use the words they or them or other people, we might not be minding our own business.
Creating Our Own Experience … and Everyone Else's
Trying to control others comes up often when we apply the Five Principles. If God is absolute good (Principle One), why do people suffer? If all humans are divine (Principle Two), why are there terrorists, criminals, abusers? We want to change them!
But the most obvious example of not minding our own business involves the Third Principle, when we try to create our own experience—and everyone else's too. We may blame other people's thoughts for our outcomes. “I have a great prosperity consciousness, but my husband is negative and that's why we're broke.” Sorry. Anything in your experience is related to your consciousness.
The Fourth Principle emphasizes the importance of prayer. But how many of our prayers are focused on other people and what we think is wrong in their lives—money, love, health, jobs, all the things we want to change about them, for them, for their own good?
The Fifth Principle, putting principles into action, is sometimes mistakenly used to try to change other people, organizations or governments.
Think for a minute how much pain we cause ourselves by minding others' business. We become miserable over what they are doing or not doing. Or more accurately, what we think about what they are doing or not doing. We can be completely absorbed in someone else's life even when we're sitting alone in our own homes.
Sometimes we tell them what we think. Sometimes we try to force them to change. But the real source of our misery is what we think about them. Instead of being preoccupied with their business, we could choose happiness for ourselves.
We also let other people mind our business. Anytime we act (or don't act) because others wouldn't like it, anytime we worship at the altar of others' approval, we are letting them mind our business.
So Mind Your Own Business goes both ways. It means letting others live their lives, and letting ourselves live our own lives. It means focusing on what's important for us, regardless of others' opinions. We do that by seeking first the kingdom of heaven. A closer walk with God, an understanding of our own divinity is our life's work. That's the only business for us to be minding.
Charles Fillmore, Unity's co-founder, said: “Remind yourself that the only authority you possess is over your own mind. That is the only authority you ever will need, for the conditions under which you live reflect your thoughts.”
We create our own experience. Other people create their experience through their thoughts too, even though they may seem like victims to us.
We don't want to see them suffer. But we must be careful how we show our caring, or we end up minding the business of the world. So the third way to mind our own business is globally.
It is true that people are starving, children are abused, and floods, famine, earthquakes, tornadoes and climate change all take their toll. And we all feel a need to do something to help. Sometimes we look for someone to blame. We protest wars or organize groups to oppose guns, taxes, drunken driving and other issues.
But do these forms of resistance help? We know that what we resist persists, and what we focus on expands. If we focus on what's wrong in the world, we only magnify the problems.
How can we mind our own business and still improve the world? If all people are creating their own experiences, they're getting what they focus on and what they need for their growth. It's difficult to know what is ours to do. Minding our own business is no easier than practicing the other Five Principles!
Love and Care, Not Worry and Control
How can we mind our own business and still improve the world? Of course we shouldn't ignore everyone else's (or the world's) problems. We just have to be careful how we respond to our thoughts about their circumstances. We care about others, love them. But love and care are very different from worry and control. Love does not pull our energy down or force others to change.
Here are three practical ways to mind our own business:
First, realize that other people have their paths in this lifetime, and we have ours. Their paths may look unnecessarily hard to us, and we want to make them easier. But apparently their difficulties are how they're getting soul lessons.
It really is none of our business whether someone lives or dies; it's a soul choice. It's none of our business whether someone has a happy marriage or goes bankrupt. Who knows the path each soul has chosen?
We can honor others' paths, even when it's difficult for them. We can know their experiences are for their growth. We can love them best by focusing on our own growth, tending to our own souls.
Second, remember we can't force other people to change so we can be more comfortable. We can only change ourselves.
My friend and co-host on Unity Online Radio, Laura Shepard, takes this to an extreme. She's been married more than 20 years and won't ask her husband to change. Anything. She believes it's her job to discipline her thoughts, because she's the one attracting whatever behavior she dislikes in other people. Every time she explains this, we get calls from angry wives and envious husbands.
Third, stop labeling good and bad. How many times has something we labeled bad brought us gifts? We don't have the big picture; we only see momentary snapshots. We mind our own business when we can enjoy the journey and trust the process of life unfolding.
So how do we mind our own business?
Focus only on our own soul's path.
Discipline our thoughts toward creating our own experience, and allow others the same opportunity.
Give up labels and judgments. We really don't know what's best for others.
When we focus on our own spiritual expansion, we are minding our own business. And when we mind our own business, we are in the highest possible consciousness to create our own experience, love others, and thereby change the world.
To comment on this story, email firstname.lastname@example.org.