LISTENING TO GOD

‘Listening to God’ – the title may seem a bit crazy or whimsical for some! Some others may think that it would be an article full of religious stuff. To help do away with your assumptions, let me assure you that listening to God is neither a crazy thought nor a religious supposition. It’s not a crazy thought because God does speak. It’s not a religious supposition because God has nothing to do with religion. Religions (there are uncountable many – and every other day new religions are born) are socio-cultural identities to which a sense of divinity has been pulled in to help make it sacred. God created no religion. He just created human beings and gave them the freedom to choose to follow Him or to look the other way. And, that is how we have different belief systems, ideologies and philosophies about God the world over.

Having cleared the air a bit, let me ask you – have you ever listened to God speak to you? I have. And, that’s what makes me write this article with confidence.

THE WAYS GOD DOESN’T ALWAYS SPEAK

  • God doesn’t always speak ‘what’ we would want Him to.

There are times we want God to intervene in our lives during tough situations. Desperate for a word of assurance from Him, we wish that He would speak a word of affirmation into our situation. But, it doesn’t always happen that way. That’s because God knows what is best for us in the infinity of His wisdom than what we desire with the finiteness of our longing. His ways are different from ours. His thoughts are different from ours.

  • God doesn’t always speak ‘when’ we would want Him to.

Living at a day and age of instants – instant Maggie, instant Coffee, instant Soups – and at a time when data gets downloaded in seconds and nanoseconds, it is quite understandable to want quick-fix solutions to problems and shortcuts to success. It is also quite understandable to want God to speak to us instantly as soon as He is called out to. At times, He makes us wait – the delay leading many to conclude that ‘God doesn’t exist’. However, we need to understand that God is beyond time. With God a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.

  • God doesn’t always speak ‘where’ we would want Him to.

Most of us have this notion that God can be found in and would speak in serene tranquil surroundings, in seclusion, away from habitation – maybe on a lonely sea beach or a lofty mountain top. To get you right on this, God speaks to His handmade human beings at all places. He is Omnipresent. So, if you are thinking that you need to get away on a quiet vacation in order to have God speak to you, you are wrong. God can speak in the storms, in the tumult of crashing waves, in the whirlpool and in the wind. But, to be able to listen to Him, we need the silence of our hearts with our spirits attuned to Him.

  • God doesn’t always speak ‘how’ we would expect Him to.

Not every dream is from God. Not every vision is from God. Not every prophetic word is from God. Not every voice from within is from God. Not every counsel received from trusted loved ones or experienced wise ones, is from God. Not every seemingly evident sign is from God. So, beware that you do not mistakenly assume that the voices of the world, of your own desires and of the devil are from God, thereby preventing yourself to listen to the voice of God.

HOW THEN, DOES GOD SPEAK?

  • God speaks through His audible voice.

God is simply not a figment of human imagination. He is not a mere superpower, somewhere up in the high skies. He is a living entity. He is not a lifeless totem. And so, He speaks with an audible voice. Those who have heard Him speak describe His voice as thunderous, like the sound of many waters. At times, He speaks in silent whispers and at other times in a calm clear call.

  • God speaks through nature.

Nature is God’s footprint on earth. The myriad animals, birds, fishes, insects, trees, flowers, seas, oceans, mountains, sun, moon, stars all bear the stamp of God. They are silent witnesses to the existence of God and God speaks through them. Nature is not God. But, it bears the impression of its Creator.

  • God speaks through people.

While all human counsel is not from God, God does speak through people – at times through people known to us, at other times through complete strangers and sometimes through people whom we don’t seem to agree with.

  • God speaks through supernatural means.

Again, while all dreams, visions and signs are not from God, God does speak through these supernatural means. He has been using these means from ages of old and does so even today to reach out to people.

  • God speaks through His Word.

I believe in the Bible as the living Word of God. God has revealed Himself through His Word – not by the word of a human author/s. The word of God is alive and active, sharper than any double-edged sword and God speaks out loud and clear to all humanity through His word.

HOW CAN WE LISTEN TO GOD?

  • Tuning our spirits to God

When we tune our spirits Godwards, we train our ears to listen to God. A newborn baby knowing the difference between the mother’s voice and that of others, responds to that familiar voice while discarding others. With spirits tuned to God, His voice distinctly makes us listen to Him.

  • Having a spirit of discernment

If all counsel is not from God, but some are; if all supernatural means are not from God, but some are, how do we know for sure which to listen to? This is when a spirit of discernment is needed and this is something given by God Himself.

  • Spending time in the presence of nature

Nature speaks of the glories of God. Spend time in the quietness of nature and allow God to speak to you. Not the voice from within you, but the voice of God. You’ll hear Him!

  • Quietening our hearts and seeking to listen to Him

When we quieten our hearts and consciously seek to listen to Him, there is no way we would miss Him speak. Hearing may be accidental, but listening is always a conscious choice. If we choose to listen to God, we will definitely listen to Him.

  • Clearing the clutter

The digital age has made pep talks, motivational speeches and positive thinking lectures available at our fingertips. They do help pep us up for a while but pose as the biggest obstacles to desire to listen to God. So, while you feel motivated and pepped up by listening to experts, don’t allow those voices to cloud the voice of God – you’ll miss listening to the best motivator!

In this week, when we are writing about ‘Listening’, I chose to write about ‘Listening to God’ because this is the most important voice that every human being needs to listen to. And, this is the voice that goes unperceived the most leading to chaos in families, societies and the world over. I urge you to desire to listen to God speaking to you. When you do, you’ll know what I mean.

Stay tuned for articles this week that focus on the importance of listening in our day-to-day lives – in families, among friends, in workplaces and everywhere else!

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A TALE OF TWO CYCLONES

29th October 1999

The strongest recorded tropical cyclone in the North Indian Ocean struck Odisha – a state in the eastern part of India. It was a Category 5 tropical cyclone – extremely dangerous causing widespread destruction. Later designated as BOB 06 by the India Meteorological Department (IMD) and as 05B by the Joint Typhoon Warning Centre (JTWC), it continues to be referred to as ‘the supercyclone’ to this day.

I was in Grade 9 that time. Incessant rains started from the morning of 28th October. A cyclone alert had been sounded over various forms of media and so people hurried to finish errands and pending works so that they could quickly shut themselves indoors. By 29th morning, the wind had gathered considerable speed. I could see the rains blowing in sheets, before the windows were shut to prevent the rainwater from entering into the house.

The winds kept on getting fiercer with every passing hour. Needless to mention, electricity connections had been snapped off since morning. The noon sky resembled the sky at dusk. Curious to know what was happening outside, I tried to find some crevices or cracks somewhere in the house to peek through. I found one near the kitchen window. We were in the second floor and that gave quite a bit of a view. By then, the rain and wind speed were intense. There weren’t any big and strong trees near the place where we were staying. Whatever trees were there, had fallen flat to the ground by afternoon.

As evening approached, the wind gained a maddening speed and we were told that the wind speed would be maximum around midnight. Suddenly my mother saw water entering our house through the open grills. One wall of the visitors’ room had open grills with no covering. On other days, it gave a good view and let cool breeze into the house. But that day, there was no way to cover the huge area that could counter the wind speed. We left it as such even as rainwater continued to enter through that space and seep into the adjoining rooms.

My sister was quite small and my mother and sister sat cuddled in one corner of the bed – crying and praying alternatively. My father and I were the bravehearts – looking for weak window latches which needed to be fastened with ropes or plugging in some holes where there was a chance for water to trickle in. In the silence of the evening, all that one could hear was flying off of some asbestos roofs, crashing of walls or pillars or trees in the distance and the sound of the wind!

Just then, we heard a continuous banging sound. It was almost 9 in the night and all of us in the family were huddled in a room. My father and I stepped out of the room to find out what the noise was – only to discover that our main door’s latch had broken by the wind pressure and the door was flying open and banging shut constantly. It had to be fixed because the wind was still gaining speed. Nothing that we did could help keep the door shut. Eventually, we left it as it was.

11 PM – 2 AM was the time when the wind gained the maximum momentum. The uncanny whistling sound of the wind was terrifying, so much so that none expected to see the next day. Rains continued the next day but, the wind speed had reduced. No one dared step out of the house. From the windows, we could see the road branches, straws from thatched houses somewhere, mangled wires all strewn along the road. Few flats adjacent to ours had their parapets broken.

Electricity was restored in my area after 15-20 days. Kerosene oil, candles, dry food stuffs were distributed by Government officials and NGOs. Water tankers plied across the city to provide water as water pipe connections were ruptured. It seemed as if we were living in the days of the early man. No communication possible with anyone, except one’s neighbours because the roads were obstructed with big fallen trees and mangled wires.

Radio broadcasting services were the first to be restored and so news started trickling in. With each announcement the death toll went up. Certain places along the pathway of the landfall were devastated beyond imagination – so much so that today even after 20 years a couple of places haven’t been able to return to the earlier stage. Relief poured in from all quarters. Everyone who went in to the places that were severely affected came back with tears in their eyes and deep heartache. The sight of dead bodies all over and the stench that greeted the nostrils from kilometres afar were unbearable.

Government reports sum up the death toll at 9,000-10,000 though some other reports put them at 15,000. If I go on writing about further details, I could write for a whole week. I can only say that it was a ghastly experience. Surviving wind speeds of 250-260 km/hr is God’s grace indeed!

3rd May 2019

Twenty years after the super cyclone, the cyclone Fani struck Odisha. It was being forecasted from a week. But, none expected it to be anything more than a deep depression, especially because it was scorching summertime. The repeated forecasts and news bulletins did alarm people and shopkeepers had a hard time managing customers who thronged all shops for hoarding essentials.

I was out for some routine work in the evening of 1st May and was amazed to see the serpentine queues in all the multipurpose stores and grocery shops, so much so that the roads were jammed. Honestly speaking, the sight amused me to an extent. Come 2nd May, the same scorching summer heat. No sign of an approaching cyclone. Meanwhile, the Government was carrying out massive evacuation drives in the area where the cyclone was expected to make its landfall. Fishermen were prohibited to venture anywhere near the sea. Trains and flights were cancelled as precautionary measures.

And then it came – whammmm – on the 3rd morning. It had started drizzling the previous night, but again no indication (except to meteorologists) of an impending cyclone. News started trickling in of the rampage that the cyclone was causing in Puri, the place where the cyclone had made its landfall. Photos and videos from Puri flurried across social media sites, and then silence. Communication to and from Puri was cut off, only to be restored several days later. As of today, Puri is still in darkness. Water supply has been restored to about 50 per cent. But, the city is in utter devastation.

Two hours after making its landfall, the cyclone left Puri for other places. My city was the third in line to be hit. I won’t go on to describe the details except for stating that it was a strong reminder of the super cyclone of twenty years before. By evening, things had calmed down. All that remained was silence in the darkness.

The next morning was a sad one, especially the sight of big strong trees uprooted and lying flat on the roads, having smashed parts of buildings that were on their way. Electricity was restored on the sixth day in the area where I stay and work is still underway.

The intensity of devastation caused in Odisha has taken the state back to twenty years. Much of the developmental work of the state is now back to point one. However, the major difference between the super cyclone of 1999 and the cyclone Fani of 2019 (of the same wind speed) is the level of alertness and preparedness of the government which has learnt its lessons well. The death toll lies around 40 as of today. Considering the extent of devastation to land, property and buildings, without timely evacuation from potentially dangerous areas, thousands would have lost their lives. This has been recognized and applauded by the national and international media. Read the article – How do you save 1 million people from a cyclone? Ask a poor state in India to know for yourself.

Natural disasters are not preventable. Every part of the world is susceptible to some form of a natural disaster – be it cyclones, hurricanes, typhoons, earthquakes, blizzards, avalanches, landslides, volcanic eruptions or tsunamis. However, with modern technology that helps predict and caution people beforehand, alertness and preparedness help save lives, if not property.

Today many people in Odisha have lost their houses, livelihoods and property. It would take a few years for those people to return to normal lives again. The scorching summer heat of over 40 degrees Celsius is adding to the misery for those still without electricity, leave alone air conditioning.

Conditions such as these bring us back to the roots of basics and create a level playing field for people of all classes without any discrimination. Read my poem by clicking it –Apoplectic Fani.

It has been a long article, but much has been left unsaid. The thing that kept echoing in my mind all through is the love of God for all people that is a constant even in the midst of challenging conditions. Only let us not measure His love in terms of the losses we suffer or the grim situations we face, because He promises to save our souls. 

THE SPACE THAT BRINGS A GLOW TO MY FACE

A view of the world outside, a sneak peek into the hustle bustle of everyday life, gaping at the pitter patter of raindrops, welcoming the first rays of the morning sun, gazing at the full moon while basking in its cool beams – a place that offers me all this, is the space I enjoy in my house. A seat or a bed by the window – that’s my most cherished space!

The house where I grew up for the first fifteen years of my life (in government officers’ quarters), had a window in the bedroom that faced the rear of another building, but gave a diagonal view of the road outside. That is where I loved to sit on rainy afternoons, enjoying the sprinkles of rainwater that trickled in through the railings, watching people scurry along the way to escape the lashing rain, observing the rainwater flow down the walls of the nearby buildings all the while savouring the chill that had enveloped the environment due to the rain. On hot summer afternoons, when the windows were shut to prevent the heat from making its presence felt in the room while my parents rested, I stealthily kept a few inches of the window open so as to continue reading my story books – only to have my mother shout that I would spoil my eyes by reading in less light!

The house that we moved in to next, where I spent the next ten years of my life had a window next to my bed! In fact, I had chosen that space giving the bed space next to the wall to my little sister. The gentle cool breeze that greeted me through the window in the early mornings and evenings was enough to refresh me for the rest of the day. I loved waking up to the greeting of the soft sun rays in the mornings. And, the silvery moonbeams beckoned me to stare at the pearl in the starry sky as myriad thoughts crisscrossed my mind before drifting off to sleep.

When I moved to a metro city for pursuing my career, the only requirement that mattered most to me while room-hunting was a window. The room that I chose was one which had windows cover half-the wall on one side. Though it didn’t give me much of a view, due to the pattern of construction, I was satisfied with whatever view it offered.

Moving back to my hometown (we had our own house constructed by then), what I missed most was a window space to call my own! Of late, I have made peace with a window space which stares into a neighbour’s backyard. Watching the squirrels scamper across the backyard, the sparrows and kingfishers flutter and perch awhile on the guava and mango trees, the boroughs of the mango tree weigh heavy with green mangoes awaiting to ripen – gives me immense joy.

A window space gives a free flow to my thoughts, feelings and emotions. Most significantly, it helps me to connect with God away from the din of the household – humming a song of praise or whispering a word of prayer – be it in the serene visuals of nature or in observing the hurry and burry of people moving along the street.

Window space – that’s my space!

THE EYE: THE LAMP OF THE BODY

In my school days, I used to play a game with my friends called the Blindfold Challenge. There are many variants to the game. In one type, one has to chase a friend who would call out the name and then run in a different direction. In another variant, one has to identify objects and name them. In another type, one has to trace one’s way out of the room and reach the spot where the rest of the friends are (it goes without saying that they keep on sneaking from room to room silently). The game is fun! Especially those who are on the running side enjoy it a lot. But for the one who is blindfolded, it gradually begins to feel as if a state of perpetual blindness is creeping in to take a grip. I remember many of my friends used to remove the blindfold out of frustration (even before completing the task) just to get rid of the darkness. And how relieving it felt to be in the presence of light once again!

I’m sure many of you would have played this game as kids! Blindfolds are often used in reality shows on the television when participants are to be given a surprise (either a surprise gift or to welcome a surprise visitor). Have you ever thought why the eyes are the ones which are blindfolded and not any of the other sense organs? The ears, the nose, the tongue, the skin are left to function normally, whereas the eyes are covered, when a person is made to guess/identify/recognize something or somebody. Ever thought why?

In human beings, vision/sight is neurophysiologically, the most dominant sense. Research says that thirty to forty percent of our cerebral cortex is devoted to vision while the other sense organs together make up the rest. Isn’t it now easy to understand why blindfolding is so much made use of?

So tough for those with partial or complete visual impairment!

To add a tinge of humour before delving into some serious lessons, I would like to share something that happened just a few days back. I stepped out of my house in the scorching summer heat around noon, all the while feeling that something was wrong with my eyes – especially with my right eye. All along the way, I was trying to figure out the reason for my blurred vision. The problem was not with my sunglasses. And yes, I had remembered to wear contacts in both the eyes. I closed each eye with my palm by turns and tried seeing through the other. A few times of this exercise and I was sure that my right eye was at fault. Somehow I managed to finish the chores and return home in a few hours. And when I set to remove my contact lenses, the one in the right eye wasn’t there! But, I was sure that I had put it in place. After a little bit of fiddling, I successfully traced and removed the lens from beneath the eye lid!! Though I did smile to myself, I also decided to check and rectify any fault without delay should a similar thing recur in future.

So crucial are our eyes! And, they are placed at just the right position to guide the other important parts of our bodies. That is why the Bible aptly says, “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light.  But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness . . .” 

A lamp lightens the place in the absence of other sources of light. And so, with the help of the light of the lamp one can find his/her way around without much difficulty. In order to get as much light as possible, three things are crucial. Firstly, the lamp has to be placed in a location where the light rays would cover the maximum area. Secondly, the glass/fibre covering of the lamp has to be clean. Thirdly, there has to be a continuous supply of energy to generate light (without which a lamp becomes an useless object).

You may visualize the above three requirements with respect to an oil-lamp or electric lights. Applies just the same!

These three requirements apply to our eyes as well. Our eyes are the natural lamps fitted in our bodies. They serve the body by being windows to the world. The eyes not only help the body to perform its function well, but also help the body as a unit to function normally and usefully with respect to others.

  • Imagine that you had your eyes near your toes. You would then be able to see only the area under your feet. The rest of your body would go berserk without a lack of guidance. Since you and I have had no role in placing our eyes (of the human species) where they are, we just need to thank the Master Designer for His remarkable design. So wonderfully are our eyes lodged that they can see and make seen the maximum.
  • Our roles gain significance in the second requirement, i.e, in keeping our eyes clean. Keeping the eyes clean not only refers to keeping the sclera (the visible white part of the eye) clean, but also to guard the eyes against seeing anything wrong. Here, I would like to mention that our sense organs are crucial gateways to temptation. It is important to keep our eyes externally clean and healthy. Eye exercises are a must. If nothing else, then looking at a stretch of greenery for 10-15 minutes regularly helps ensure good health of the eyes. Any irritation in the eyes, needs to be addressed on an emergency basis. However, once the eyes are clean, what do we see? For the sake of brevity, I will not go on to elaborate the wrongs that the eyes are exposed to, but I sure will leave some food for thought. Deliberately watching things that may be sensually pleasing but are wrong (acts of rage, injustice, sexual perversion, porn) or letting the eyes gaze around lazily and aimlessly – are sure grounds to invite trouble in our lives in the long run.
  • What do we fuel our eyes with? The sclera is just the visible outer covering. It is a protective layer. The mechanism of sight operates when light passes through the cornea and the lens and casts an image on the retina and this information from the retina is sent via optic nerves to other parts of the brain which process the information and allow us to see. If there occurs a disruption in any one stage, vision is affected. In all this, the electrical signals play a crucial role is transmitting to and from different parts of the eyes and the brain. What external signals do we permit our eyes to carry? If we fuel our eyes with sights that are good, healthy and edifying, the signals sent by the brain to other parts of the body will be good, healthy and edifying as well. In certain cases, people are forced to witness what is wrong (for example, a child witnessing the murder of a parent or a husband being forced to watch his wife being raped). These are cases beyond one’s control where the healing touch of God and the comfort of understanding people are needed to come out of it. However, when we decide to deliberately fuel our eyes with all that is destructive and wrong, we prepare grounds for our physical and spiritual destruction. In recent news in India is a couple where the husband has been convicted and jailed for forcing unnatural sex on his wife. Five years of marriage went by smoothly and happily, after which the husband entered into the world of pornography which resulted in his atrocious behaviour. A family shattered!

The eyes indeed are the lamps of the body. They have been placed in the appropriate position by the Creator. Let us resolve to keep them clean and fuel them with supplies of edifying energy!

THE FOLLY OF PRIDE AND THE GRACE OF HUMILITY

‘Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?’

Remember this line from the story of ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’? A lovely tale that I enjoy to this day! Snow White’s stepmother, the evil queen, was so proud of her beauty that she flew into a furious rage to hear her magic mirror say that Snow White was more beautiful than her and plotted to kill Snow White. It’s another thing that the story has a happy ending (as most stories do) with Snow White in the arms of a charming prince and the evil queen banished from the kingdom.

Simply put, pride is the feeling of ‘I am better than others’. This feeling may creep in owing to the knowledge one possesses, the success one achieves, the looks (beauty) one has, the successful relationships one enjoys, the riches and material possessions one has in the coffers, the sound health that one has or the skills one possesses. Pride is an abstract intangible destructive mental construct that often finds expression in behavioural paradigms.

The more one dwells on ‘I’, ‘Me’, ‘My’ and ‘Mine’, the more haughty one becomes. There is a fine line between the feeling of satisfaction/contentment/happiness and pride. To feel happy, contented and satisfied about something is beneficial and propels one for further good. However, pride never leads to beneficial consequences. That is why, pride is not to be harboured.

  • Pride enshrouds Reality – Reality says that there are many others better than me. But, the more I dwell upon a ‘me’ that I think is the best, the more ignorance I feign of my true identity. And so I learn to live in a bubble which stays put for a short while.  
  • Pride averts Acceptance – Since I mask my true identity, I evade acceptance of certain infallible truths about me. This lack of acceptance leads to a state of cognitive dissonance which leads to errant decision making.
  • Pride arrests Progress – Progress in any area of life is the product of an honest assessment of one’s strengths and weaknesses. Pride refuses to acknowledge weaknesses by camouflaging them and hoisting a pretentious facade of strengths. And so, roadblocks to progress are bound to appear sooner or later. All forward movements stop. There occurs either a standstill or backward drift.
  • Pride precedes Failure – ‘Pride goes before a fall’ is a well-known adage that withstood the test of times. A haughty person may not experience immediate failure. In fact, that is what keeps him/her proud. However, the bubble is due to burst in time and the downward spiral begins. The Bible says, “. . . whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased . . .”
  • Pride is a Sin and leads to sin – No matter how less or more debilitating the consequences of pride, it must be understood that pride is a sin. Pride is an offense against God. Anything good that one thinks to be proud of is a blessing of God. It is easy to think with our finite minds that many accomplishments in life are the outcomes of our own efforts. But, it is mere foolishness to harbour such thoughts! If I have a melodious voice/ good looks and am praised for it, the glory belongs to the One who has made my voice or looks so – and not to me who is a mere carrier of the voice or looks, because I have not created any atom of myself. To take the glory of God upon oneself is a sin. Not only is pride a sin, it leads to further sinful acts, just like the evil queen in the Snow White story was proud enough of her beauty so as to attempt to have Snow White killed. Pride cannot tolerate competition. Hence, cheating, lying, deceit, murders, and crimes occur as after effects of pride.

A wise king once wrote a proverb –Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. Better to be lowly in spirit and among the oppressed than to share plunder with the proud.

At the opposite end of the continuum is humility. To be humble simply means to be unassuming and down-to-earth. Humility doesn’t mean being a doormat. Humility is an attitude of the heart which does not hoist ‘self’ on a pedestal. A humble person doesn’t live by ‘I’, ‘Me’, ‘My’ and ‘Mine’. S/he doesn’t beat her/his own drum doesn’t do things to earn self-glory nor causes harm to others for self-gain.

Humility is a virtue scarce in the world today. Many motivational speakers give the suggestion that one needs to project himself/herself before others at any cost, because no one else will bother to put him/her in the limelight. True, we are living in a world where there is a mad rush for recognition and prominence. But, have we ever spared a thought, who are we demanding the recognition from? From people, organizations, authorities, society? None of these recognitions would last forever. Today’s dignitary is tomorrow’s statistic.

It is foolishness to harbour pride and enjoy momentary glory than to go unnoticed in favour of eternal recognition and glory. Our journey on earth is just a small lap of the extensive journey of eternity. To be recognized and acknowledged by our Maker at the end of this earthly journey would be a thrill to bask in for eternity.

One cannot learn to be humble from any of the self-help books on the shelves. A humble spirit is one that thrives on constant acknowledgment of God over self. The Bible says, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” Isn’t God’s favour of much more worth than the accolades of men that pride would earn? It surely would give more contentment to receive the applause of God, which seems elusive but is a certainty.

Humility is an attribute perceived by onlookers, never identified or endorsed by self. Watch out for a person who says of himself/herself, “I am a humble person”. S/he is definitely not!

Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips.” – THE BIBLE

Humility is nothing but the disappearance of self in the vision that God is all.
– ANDREW MURRAY

RECOGNITION FOR A PURPOSE

People who study Psychology, Public Administration and Management (and those other inquisitive knowledge-seekers) are sure to be aware of Abraham Maslow’s Needs Hierarchy. I won’t go on to explain the theory, but will put in a diagram for easy understanding.

‘Need for Recognition’ is a part of a broader category of needs called ‘Esteem Needs’. To be recognized, satisfies the inherent esteem need of an individual.

The Need for Recognition, though inbuilt in all, finds prominent expression in some, is suppressed in some others, certain others know the art of projecting it in a balanced manner, while a handful have recognition thrust on them without any explicit attempt to be recognized. And so we have these four broad categories of people around us.

WHY DO WE NEED RECOGNITION?

Each of us has been created uniquely with lots of gifts and potentialities embedded into us. A validation of these by significant others gives a sense of confidence to move on ahead in life. Let’s take for example a painter. A painter may paint out of sheer passion and expertise. However, when his paintings are put up for display in the State Gallery for visitors to see and maybe even buy, his talent stands recognized. Though he may still continue to paint due to his passion and talent, the recognition accorded to him satisfies an inherent need.

In contrast, if his work faces rejection, his esteem needs become badly bruised and plummet to an all time low. It takes an individual high in intrinsic motivation to keep afloat amidst repudiation. To bring out the best in an individual, s/he needs to be recognized.

Whether or not an individual actively desires recognition, it is a sure fact that recognition makes one feel good. Don’t you remember how you felt when you won that competition and were awarded that trophy in school to the applause of many?

WHEN RECOGNITION BECOMES A CRAZE . . .

While all have an inherent need to be recognized, for some it becomes a craze. Such an obsession arises out of deep insecurities and anxieties within the individual. An adult who was a victim of abuse as a child and suffered from low self-esteem may decide that she definitely deserves better. So far, so good. If she channelizes her esteem needs in constructive ways, it benefits her. However, if she resorts to certain undesirable attention-seeking behaviour (like joining a strip-club, leading protests in her college, vandalism, bullying, etc.), her anxieties and insecurities continue to build up rather than healing. The modelling industry is one such arena that is ruled by the craze for recognition. This leads some to starve themselves to size zero, some to put on weight to the verge of obesity, the dusky to appear fair and the fair to appear tanned and for many others to go under the knife.

The need for recognition is inherent. The craze for recognition is not.

RECOGNITION PUSHES ONE TO ACTION

A few days back, I got to watch the LIVE webcast of ET PRIME Women Leadership Awards-2019. It was an award ceremony organized by ET (Economic Times), one of the leading business newspapers in India, to recognize and encourage women entrepreneurs. Women below 35 years of age were recognized and awarded in various categories for the different start-ups that they were leading. Each of these women shared their dreams that had led them to battle all odds to secure a place for themselves and that how great it felt to be recognized by an illustrious panel in front of a distinguished audience. And then there were women with decades of business experience who were recognized for being able to sustain and excel in the business world – the likes of Indra Nooyi, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Anu Aga. Each woman who was recognized resolved to continue to improvise, innovate and give something better to the country and to the world.

Some time back, Britannia Marie Gold had endeavoured to help women start their own business with the belief that every woman has great ideas to start their own venture. Some help and support are all that women need. In a country like India, where the patriarchal mindset is still very much prevalent, it sure is essential to provide the much-needed exposure and support to women to come out of their shells. Britannia Marie Gold organized a ‘My Startup Contest’ which invited contestants from all over the country. Ten winners were declared recently. To hear their tear-filled testimonies gave me joy! They were all full of ideas. Their eyes were full of dreams. But, they didn’t know if anyone would ever care to believe in their dreams and recognize them. They were awarded INR10lakhs to start off with their dreams.

Recognition itself is rewarding, whether or not it is accompanied by a material reward.

RECOGNIZING OTHERS

To be recognized feels good. However, to recognize others is of equal importance. Often we hesitate/forget to recognize others who need to be. At times ego comes in the way and we feel others are not worth the recognition. At other times we feel the individual in concern did what s/he was supposed to do – and so, what’s the need for recognition. The Bible says, “. . . in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you . . .” If you feel good when recognized, look for ways to recognize others around you. A senior Govt. officer shared on one occasion how he organized a small function in his office to recognize and reward one of his peons who travelled a long distance but was never late to office, while many officers staying close by reached late to work on some pretext or the other.

RECOGNITION FOR A PURPOSE

It is easy to allow the feel-good factor to go on increasing and to let the ego go on inflating when recognized for some reason. This is where the caution lights should start blinking and the alarms should start ringing out loud. Recognition should not be for mere name and fame. If recognized for a purpose, continue to further it. If recognized as a way of motivation, translate it into a purpose.

An example when I could have used recognition for a purpose comes to mind. During International Women’s Day observation at my workplace this year, as the programme was about to come to an end, some of my lady colleagues spoke out my name aloud suggesting that I would speak a few words. I was surprised, unwilling and unprepared, not knowing what made them make such a suggestion. When my name was called by the coordinator, I had no option but to go to the front. I picked up the microphone and spoke a few words which were appreciated by the guest speaker and my colleagues. However, later on, I thought that I could have utilised that opportunity to convey much more (after all one doesn’t get to address a room of around 90 people every day!). What held me back was – ‘What if most people don’t want to hear me’, ‘what if others think that I am trying to project myself as someone significant’, ‘better to limit what has to be said and speak for the sake of formality’. Though I did speak my mind I felt later that a couple of issues related to the occasion could have been shared. On that occasion, though I was recognized by my colleagues to go up and speak, I could not convert the recognition into a full-fledged purpose. A lesson learnt for the times to come!

Don’t work for recognition. You may not be recognized and that’ll leave you shattered. Accomplish your tasks to the best extent possible pouring your heart into it. And if recognized, be sure to further it for a purpose.

GRUMBLY MUMBLY AND SIMPLY BUBBLY

Grumbly Mumbly and Simply Bubbly – as their names, so their natures – stark opposites!

Grumbly Mumbly (let’s call her GM) always wore a frown on her face. No matter how well cooked any dish was, there wasn’t enough salt to her taste! If the salt was just appropriate, the veggies or the meat in the dish weren’t tender enough! The maid scrubbed the floors of her house clean every day; still, GM didn’t find them sparkly enough and showered a mouthful on her! Her ten-year-old daughter stood first in the class with a remark of “Excellent” superscribed on the Report Card; still, GM’s brows twitched seeing a shortage of four marks from the aggregate and all along the way back she fussed at the deliberate evil schemes of the teachers! On one occasion GM went shopping for herself. Unfortunately, the store did not have the required size of the outfit that she had selected. Not only did she blacklist the store for herself, but also did not forget to give a fuming suggestion to the store Manager to shift the store to some nondescript town or village! Her husband gifted her a bunch of her favourite red roses on their wedding anniversary. She immediately inspected the bouquet and started kvetching about his lack of taste to have chosen pale half-blossomed partially dried roses!

No one ever liked being with GM, though she was skilled at many things. She greeted each smile with a scowl. Her constant mumblings sent all tumbling away from her. Her blood pressure remained high at all times. Migraine was her companion of many years. Stomach ulcers frequented her. Gradually, a host of psychosomatic ailments befriended her. GM was miserable! Nothing that anyone did or said ever satisfied her.

Simply Bubbly (let’s call her SB) moved into Grumbly Mumbly’s neighbourhood one fine afternoon. Every other neighbour cautioned her against GM’s scoffs and sneers. “All the best, if you ever crossroads with her”, they said. SB just laughed it away. “There isn’t a person who can rob your cheer unless you decide to trade it for a world load of fear”, she quipped. SB found joy in all things and people around her, even in the most challenging ones. Her bubbly nature was infectious. A couple of times, GM and SB did crossways. Each look of grimace that GM threw was met with a beaming smile from SB. When GM broke her ankle, none went to her aid. “She would find fault with anything that we do”, they said. Simply Bubbly was the only one who went up to GM’s doorsteps each day without fail. Day after day she went for the three whole months that GM was confined indoors. “Wait and watch till she’s back on her feet”, said all.

The day GM was to take her first steps outside, all peeped from their windows. There was GM leaning on to SB trying to take stable steps in the midst of the busy traffic! And what was that – a smile on GM’s face! That was her first smile that anyone had ever seen!

The next day, at a thanksgiving get-together, Grumbly Mumbly seemed all quiet. She didn’t mind the loud chatter or the endless clatter of dishes. The music which would have either been too loud or too low on previous occasions didn’t bother her much. Seated at the centre wearing a faint smile, she said, “I’ve learnt to let go – to let go of the imperfections that drain my energy, and to appreciate all things around me. My quest for improvement would never end, but the snoots would never come back.”

Profusely thanking Simply Bubbly for helping her deal with her insecurities and anxieties, GM declared that she would be working towards a makeover. Gradually, GM’s complaints gave way to appreciations and her frowns into charming smiles. Her distasteful mouthfuls were replaced by words of encouragement. The world which she had been seeing with dark shades became visible with bright brilliant sunshine.  

Often, it’s tough to drive home rational thinking to the Grumbly Mumblys around us. They seem to be perfectionists, but fail to accept the fact that their own personality needs tweaking. They seem to have justified arguments for all their grumblings. Leave the hardcore GMs. What about you and me? How many times have we grumbled over situations, people, our own selves? The scorching sun makes us grumble. A heavy downpour early in the morning makes us grumble. If the water is too hot for a bath, we start muttering. If the electricity supply goes off while we are in the middle of an assignment we start fuming. If a guest arrives too early, we grumble. If the guest arrives much later than the scheduled time of meeting we grumble.

While it is necessary to be disciplined and maintain certain principles in life, it is all the more essential to harbour the virtue of contentment, all the while acknowledging the transient nature of the world around us. Discontent leads to grumbling. Constant grumbling emits the foul smell of ones personality to those around and proves to be a powerful repellent. Its wise to choose not to be a Grumbly Mumbly. 

“But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.”  – THE BIBLE

“Be grateful and you won’t grumble. Grumble and you won’t be grateful.” – Billy Graham