Verse 3.21: Whatever action a great man performs, common men follow. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues.
Have you ever had the experience where you've met someone for the first time, yet you immediately felt that they were your well wisher? Or conversely, you knew instantly that someone had ulterior motives while talking to you? If so, you've experienced exactly how sensitive the soul is. The soul can sense these subtle energies that we give off to one another.
That's probably why we tend to judge people by their actions first and their words second. It makes sense if you think about it. After all, actions can reveal a lot more about how a person feels and where their intentions lie much than their words which can mask their true thoughts. That is why the Gita is stating here that a great person is revealed by the exemplary actions they perform. They don't just speak inspiring words, but inspire others by their very actions.
We may have the great fortune of having such individuals in our own lives. One of the things you may notice about them and marvel at (I certainly do!) is that:
they always try to act consistently irregardless of whether or not anyone is watching.
In fact there is a beautiful story I'd like to share that demonstrates this incredible quality. Once, a mother of a young boy asked Mahatma Gandhi to help her. Gandhi, being the loving individual that he was, immediately asked how he could be of service. The mother stated that her boy was addicted to sweets and requested the Mahatma to please tell the boy not to eat them. The Mahatma was more than willing to, but he had one request for the mother. He asked her to come back with her son one week later. Although the mother was puzzled, she agreed and after a week passed by she came back to see Gandhi along with her son.
At that time, Gandhi spoke to the boy and with great conviction in his voice said, "Please don't eat sweets!" The boy immediately nodded and promised he wouldn't. The mother, although happy, was still confused. She voiced her bewilderment by asking Mahatma Gandhi why he hadn't simply instructed her son the week before. Gandhi answered saying, "How could I tell your boy not to eat sweets last week when I myself was eating them! This week I gave up eating sweets and so only now I feel comfortable requesting your son to do the same."
I remember when I heard that story I was struck by two things. Firstly, our own behaviour and convictions can have a great effect on others whether they are aware of what we do or say privately. This is greatly illustrative of how sensitive the soul actually is. Secondly, it also demonstrated to me that words carry greater weight if we ourselves are practicing whatever advice or observations we offer.
Although it's a high standard to aspire to, what to speak of maintain, it's a worthy goal to work towards. It's a win-win situation if we try to live our lives this way. After all, most of us would probably like to be considered persons of integrity and as the saying goes: integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is watching. The second win is the fact that our personal dedication to "walking our talk" may have the incredible ripple effect of inspiring others in a positive way. So try it for yourself and "walk your talk!"