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“Consider the rights of others before your own feelings, and the feelings of others before your own rights.” –John Wooden

This summarizes the way Coach Wooden believed we should all treat each other. Acting in this manner requires many great character traits.

One of Coach Wooden’s favorite authors was Wilferd Peterson, who in his book The Art of Living described some of these qualities:

  • Courtesy: Courtesy is the wisdom to know that we should love before we think and think before we act.
  • Empathy: Through empathy, a person learns not to judge others in terms of his own personal interest, likes and dislikes, but in terms of what life means to them.
  • Tolerance: Tolerance prevents prejudice and resentment. It may reject the argument, but it always respects the person.
  • Love: Love is the perfect antidote that floods the mind to wash away hatred, jealousy, resentment, anxiety and fear.

In his book The Wisdom of Wooden, Coach discussed how his belief that we should “consider the rights of others before our own feelings, and the feelings of others before our own rights” impacted the way he approached the different religious beliefs of his players:

I am a Christian. Over our years together, Nellie and I found the greatest strength and hope in our faith. We shared it with our children, and they with their children. But I also respect those whose faith is different from mine.

Thus, I was not particularly concerned with what religious beliefs my student-athletes held, although I did want them to believe in something, because it can make you a better person. I told them, “Have a faith, a religion, and know why you believe in it. Stand up for those beliefs, but respect the rights of others to believe in their own faith.”

What kind of a person has no creed, no faith, no moral compass guiding them? What kind of person forces their faith on others?

At the core of all great religions, in one form or another, is the exhortation to love our fellow man. Whether you’re a Christian, Jew, Buddhist or Muslim, it’s important to always keep that in mind. Too many forget this basic tenet of their faith.

Photo by GaudiLab/

Craig Impelman
As Coach Wooden’s grandson-in-law, Craig Impelman had the opportunity to learn Coach’s teachings firsthand and wrote about those lessons for his site, He is a motivational speaker and the author of Wooden’s Wisdom, a weekly “e-coaching module” that is distributed to companies nationally.