THE BLOG
06/16/2011 07:06 pm ET | Updated Aug 16, 2011

If They're Helping People, Does It Really Matter If They Don't Practice What They Preach?

I got forwarded an email this morning from a friend of mine who was excited to share a daily email of self-help/spiritual inspiration he gets. The second I opened it, I had an immediate gag reflex. You see, not only have I encountered the creator of this site/email/blog, but also I have worked closely with one of the highlighted people he was touting as being a beacon of light in the self-help world. In my encounters and my friends' encounters with both of these people, neither of them behaved with dignity. In my experiences, and my friend's experiences, neither of them treated people the way they tell people to treat people. I have never personally once seen either of them take responsibility for causing anyone pain or suffering, or take responsibility for their mistakes. It is always someone else's fault. Neither of them acts or live the way they are preaching. And both are loved and adored and wildly successful in the self-help world.

It makes me angry: here are these people who are claiming one thing that thousands and thousands of people are buying, making lots of money off it, getting notoriety and respect, yet are not living that way. Every time someone in the self help world that I know personally makes a comment on Twitter or Facebook or a blog post totally condemning something that I have seen them do themselves, it sets me off. They're lying... mostly to themselves, and of course to all of their followers. And I still want to puke any time someone brings up the name of a guy from the self-empowerment world that I went out with a few times. He was so much living on the dark side that I hung around waiting for the big reveal... waiting for him to explain he was only living that way as a test or a lesson or... something. But he wasn't. He was really living on the dark side. But he is brilliant. And his brilliance has helped hundreds of thousands of people. So does it really even matter how he behaves in his personal life, if he is helping so many in his public life?

We look to these people in our times of despair, confusion, we look to these people seeking guidance, inspiration, and purpose. Yet, they are completely putting on acts. And yes, I know they are also just people, on their own path with their own issues and journey. I know they're human; however, I'd say the majority of self-help and spiritual teachers own their humanness, own their flaws, know they make mistakes, and share their journey with us. Those are the kinds of self-help and spiritual teachers I want to learn from and study... the ones that take responsibility for their lives and mistakes, that share their process of transformation with us, and I want to make it clear that those are not the people I'm talking about here in this post.

But, I need to take responsibility for my own harsh judgment of these others. Why does it bother me so much? On one hand, I feel very betrayed. These people put on great shows, pretending to be one thing but really being another. These people are incredibly smart businessmen, putting the value of the dollar and the value of their own soul over others'. But should it even matter what the motive or truth is if they are really helping people? And they are helping people.

On the other hand, is it possible it sets me off because it makes me take a look at myself? I aim to empower people through my intenSati fitness classes, promoting the power of positive affirmations and self-talk. Yet... I look in the mirror and don't always talk to myself so nicely. I look in the mirror and tell myself that my arms are too big, that my stomach is getting fat, that the extra skin under my armpits is ugly. I write articles of empowerment for single women, yet many nights I sit at home alone thinking that something must be seriously wrong with me that I'm still single... Does the fact that these people seem like frauds to me only just mirror the fact that I feel that I'm a fraud too?

And I want to reiterate, I know that everyone has his or her own journey, and this is theirs. I don't know what their paths in this life are, I don't know what they came here to learn... and I truly believe that these people started off with good intentions. In fact, they probably still have good intentions. It's just that the ego has taken over, and what they have turned into, I guess, isn't my place to judge (even though I have been doing so for 890 words now. Hm... guess I should stop!). And they do help people. So, then, why should it matter to me that they don't practice what they preach? I have days when I don't practice what I preach... I bet we all do.

From now on when I find myself harshly judging these others for being frauds, I'm going to turn around and ask myself where I'm being a fraud in my own life.