Sweep in Front of Your Own Door

Front door

“Let everyone sweep in front of his own door, and the whole world will be clean.” ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Imagine if each one of us did just that. We swept in front of our doors and let others do the same—no shoulds, ifs, or buts.

How would our world look like?

It would be heaven on earth—a clean and beautiful blue planet where everyone takes care of his or her responsibilities.

Sounds really simple. But how come our world is filled with trash?

The obvious answer is: not everyone is sweeping in front their own door and being responsible for their mess.

Then there is the garbage that others throw in front of your door and walk away. They don’t pick it up, and they don’t seem to care.

Thinking about others not doing their part and adding more to their (and your) trash is disheartening, and this leads to:

The complaining addiction

The most common (and conditioned) reaction when things don’t work out according to our expectations is to complain.

It feels easier to complain about a situation than trying to change it. We might think that it’s impossible to change the entire world—and it is—so we passively sit and continue to complain.

While complaining may seem easier, it comes with a sinister cost. It casts a shadow of helplessness and victimhood and it compounds the issue.

Nothing ever changes because of criticism alone. If everyone complained and no one picked up the trash, the situation would stay the same (at best). But most likely it would worsen—the trash is not going to pick itself up, and will continue to pile up.

Instead of complaining, we can do something by first realizing that we have:

A choice

You’re not responsible for the entire world’s trash and problems. None of us is. But we all have a choice

We can do nothing and add to the trash that’s piling up. Or,

We can continue to clean in front of our doors.

We can even choose to add a touch of beauty to the world … plant a flower, mend a fence, or care for a tree.

All the above choices are available to each one of us. Doing something is more rewarding than complaining.

When we do our part, we will clean up our corner of the world, and feel energized and empowered. What we do matters—even in the smallest of ways. We might even inspire others to do something.

But what about other people’s trash?

Again there are a few choices:

You can clean up after other people. You can help others out of the goodness of your heart. But this can be very hard and might even backfire.

  • It might lead to disappointment—can you continue to clean up someone’s mess without expecting them to do something about it themselves?
  • If you continue to help others for an extended period of time, you might feel burned out and resent them for it.
  • The people you’re helping might abuse your kindness and expect more of you. Or your offer to clean up might offend them. After all you’re butting into their business.

You can talk to others and see if they can do it. Maybe they’ll do something about it, and maybe they won’t … or maybe they will be upset that you’re even bringing it up.

You can let the rest go. This is my preference—to let go and trust that life will take care of it when the time comes. All we have to do is take care of our own stuff. And who knows, when we trust and drop expectations, amazing things can happen.

Sweeping in front of your own home doesn’t stop with the physical mess you clean up. It also extends to the mental and emotional junk that has accumulated over the years (or someone has recently thrown your way).

Imagine if each one of us swept the dust from our minds and washed the stains of our hearts. The whole world would be at peace … and that would be heaven on earth.