We have all uttered those magical words at some point during adulthood, “do as I say, not as I do.” I too am guilty of it. In this post I am going to challenge us all to stop doing and give an argument as to why.
Before getting into how we use this phrase in everyday life, I want reference my martial arts experience first. Looking back, I actually heard my instructor say this many, many times. They were all seemingly little things like:
Rolling up your uniform sleeves – he would routinely do this but yell at us for doing so.
Wearing a colored t-shirt under our uniform – it is customary to wear a white t-shirt or a t-shirt that is the same color as your belt under your uniform, but he would routinely wear a navy-blue shirt.
Having a ponytail – he was adamantly against having long hair and would routinely pull on them. Many years later, he would sport a ponytail of his own.
Being late – We were given pushups without fail for being late however nearly every class would not start on time. The class would start when he decided to enter the room, typically 5-10 minutes after the scheduled start time.
When it comes to integrity, there is no such thing as something little. You must lead by example if you wish others to follow said example. I want to make it clear that I have the utmost respect for my first instructor and owe the vast majority of my martial arts knowledge and experience to his teachings. No one is perfect and we all need to work on being a good example. I have been guilty of most of the same things as him throughout the years.
When I think about it more, asking someone to do something while blatantly not doing it yourself, shows a lack of respect. It also portrays a view of I am better or more important than you and therefore the rules do not apply to me. In the martial arts, many instructors unfortunately have this point of view. Because of rank, title, experience, or something else, karate instructors regularly feel as though students need to listen to and respect them without question. We as parents are often guilty of this too.
How many of you have experienced one or more of the following?
Drank or smoked in front of your kids but told them not to
Drank a soda while telling your kids they couldn’t have one
Tell your kids to eat their vegetables while you pass on them
Used cuss words but scold your kids when they use them
Again, these are seemingly little things, but don’t you think it would have a bigger impact if you talked the talk and walked the walk? I am not telling you to not drink but I am suggesting that you don’t do it in front of your kids. “Daddy, you said drinking beer is bad, but you do it all the time.” Be the example of what you want them to be rather than just telling them to do what you say because you said so. They look up to you. They want to emulate you. Simply saying “You can do it to when you’re older” is not going to cut it. It is impossible to be perfect but when you slip up, my suggestion is the following. When your kid questions something you’re doing that they cannot do, just tell them “You’re right, I shouldn’t be doing that because I told you not to. I’m sorry.”
In today’s world, I feel we all need to be better examples for our kids since many of our “leaders” are unable to do so and are prominently displayed all over television and social media. Take matters into your own hands by being a good example and not following unapologetic, self-fulfilling politicians and government officials.
I will end with a true story. About 20 years ago, there was a martial arts world championship tournament in Southern California. I was the chief instructor of a studio but did not own the studio. I was responsible for about 20 students competing. This story actually takes place after the tournament. A large portion of the group decided to take a day trip to Tijuana, Mexico. Many students were kids with their parents of course coming along. Keep in mind it was much friendlier place 20 years ago and this was pre-9/11. One of the adults in the group who did not have kids with him, located a store that sold Cuban cigars. He bought some and offered them to the adults in the group including me. I declined as I did not think it appropriate to smoke a cigar in front of my young, impressionable students. One of the other fathers who was also a black belt with 2 young kids with him who also were in karate accepted the offer. As we all walked through the town, stopping at shops and stands, the men puffed away on their cigars. At one point the man’s oldest son asked him, “Dad, why are you smoking a cigar? You told me it was dangerous and bad for you. I don’t want you to get sick.” The dad looked at his son and said, “You are absolutely right, son. I am sorry” and promptly put out the cigar. It would have been easy for him to tell his son that it is something that grownups are allowed to do or once and awhile is ok, but, in my opinion, he took the more difficult yet correct approach.
We can’t live with 100% integrity all the time, but we can do our best and remember that even the little things we may overlook are not so little after all.