Sage Advice From the 14th Dalai Lama: Don’t Be a Jerk

Sage Advice From the 14th Dalai Lama: Don’t Be a Jerk July 27, 2017

The Dalai Lama, 2014, by Senterpartiet via Wikimedia Commons
The Dalai Lama, 2014, by Senterpartiet via Wikimedia Commons

I recently wrote about the 5 Basic Rules to Living a Righteous Life. But I’m now feeling the need to write a prequel to those five rules. Let’s call it Rule 0, the rule before the rules, the one baseline behavior that all of us should follow to be a part of the human community.

The intent of this rule is expressed in the words of the14th and current Dalai Lama. He’s a wise man who has written several books on the general theme of being a compassionate and good person. They include many quotable lines, perhaps none better than this:

The Dalai Lama

 Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.

I’ve taken the liberty of translating the Dalai Lama’s message into more colloquial language, distilling it down to just a few words. It’s a statement that’s more suited for our coarse times, when civility seems to be a relic of a different era. The translation:

 Do good. Don’t be a jerk.

Don’t bully. Don’t belittle. Don’t be petty. Don’t be mean. Don’t yell or shout. Don’t be rude. Control your anger. Be considerate. Be friendly. Be helpful. Be kind. Encourage. Inspire. Treat others as you yourself would want to be treated. Do good. Don’t be a jerk. BE A HUMAN BEING.

This is never truer than when you are in a position of power.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re playing the role of supervisor at work, mom or dad at home, or in situations where you’re dealing with people in a service capacity, be they be waiters, tellers or customer service reps. Consider this challenge from the business marketer and life philosopher Seth Godin:

In the moment, when you have power, no matter how momentarily, how will you choose to act? More than just about anything else, what you do when you have the chance is what people say about you and remember about you. (People) pay careful attention to the restraint (or lack of it) that you show when the opportunity arises.

In other words, we need to THINK before we act, consider the repercussions of what we’re doing and saying to the person or people we’re communicating with, regardless of our station in life—and this includes (if you live in America) the highest office holder in our land. What we do, when we are in power, ultimately inspires and encourages those around us to act in kind, for better or for worse.

I’m not sure when I first jotted down the list below and Google was not a big help in determining its origin. The important thing is the simple point it makes. We need to THINK before we speak, text or email. Whether you’re talking to friends or family, chatting with co-workers, or engaging in any exchange with another, you should ask yourself the following questions before you communicate:

T – Is this true?

H – Is this helpful?

I – Is this inspiring?

N – Is this necessary?

K – Is this kind?


When we take the time to ask ourselves these questions, we become more human and allow the best part of ourselves to come through. Most importantly, we wind up adding to the world around us, not detracting from it, by uplifting the spirits of those we encounter.Whose lead will you follow: the 14th Dalai Lama or the 45th President? THINK about it.


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