I am currently two-thirds of the way through Gandhi’s autobiography (Gandhi: An Autobiography, The Story of My Experiments with Truth). What an amazing man; he details his struggles – triumphs and failures – as he seeks a deeply spiritual and honest life. I am in awe of his commitment to serving others and the sacrifices he was willing to make along the way. I did not know much about the specifics of his life before reading this and I am so impressed with his ability to observe himself and his behaviors and constantly measure himself against his deeply held values and beliefs, altering course as necessary to stay true to his highest self.
Trained as a lawyer (barrister in the English system) he refused to engage in anything but totally honest behavior. Gandhi relates the story of a client who held back some of the dishonest acts the client had engaged in only to have them arise while Gandhi was representing him. Gandhi insisted he would only continue to represent the client if the whole truth was presented. The client agreed and ultimately things worked out well for the client (though Gandhi was clear up front that the ultimate outcome was not important if he was to remain involved – the honest path was essential). Gandhi’s handling of this matter (and many others) gained him wide respect for a brand of truthfulness alien to most humans then and now.
While representing one of the parties in a heated family business dispute involving significant wealth Gandhi was sure that the facts were on the side of his client and that he could “win” the litigation. It was also very clear to him that the lawyers on both sides would fight hard, presenting arguments and racking up huge fees to the detriment of all involved. The amount of time both plaintiff and defendant were putting into the trial was taking them away from growing their businesses. Also, he was sure that the parties, who were relatives from the same city, would suffer severe damage to their families if the legal conflict was fought to the end. The ill-will between the sides was mounting.
He committed to gaining the trust of all involved and did so. His recommendation was for arbitration and the case was decided in favor of his client. He knew the entire settlement was too high for the other party to pay and that suicide would be preferred to bankruptcy. Gandhi encouraged his client to allow for payment over time and this was done. The other party made good on all installments and both family and business remained whole and healthy.
Gandhi writes, “I had learnt to find out the better side of human nature and to enter men’s hearts. I realized that the true function of a lawyer was to unite parties riven asunder.”
All professionals serving enterprising families, and the families themselves, can learn from Gandhi’s wisdom. Too often all of these constituencies lose sight of the greater “truth” at the expense of family harmony and economic benefit.
I highly recommend this autobiography; please let me know if you decide to read it (or have read it). I’d love to chat about it.