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!

Advertisements

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. 

CHASTITY IN THE LAND OF LUST

Understanding Lust:

I have seen people using lust and love as similar meaning words on many occasions. But the meanings of these two words are completely different.

Unlike love, lust is extremely self-centered, it never allows a person to see anyone else but himself or herself, it lets a person focus someone’s physical body than their inner beauty and it lets a person to have physical intimacy than establishing a deep emotional bonding with another.

Let me explain how lust can affect a person…

Have you ever seen a drunkard blabbering on a road tottering from this side to that side of it? Yes, we all must have witnessed it many times on the streets.

Do people take him seriously whatever he says in that fully drunk state? No, because we all know it very well that the drunkard is not in his own control.

Lust is a state something of that kind. It is an experience of intense carnal urges and unbridled sexual craving. Lust is not an emotion, but it involves the experience of fleshly enjoyment with anticipation of sexual pleasure.

Mary C. Lamia, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist, and psychoanalyst says, “Lust provides a rare window through which you can view your vulnerabilities as you are swept away by your imagination.”

But the condition is, only if we can realise about our vulnerabilities then we can learn from it for a future reference otherwise we move towards destruction gradually.

Depth of Lust:

We all know, how different companies produce different products for their customers according to what they wished in their minds. In the same way, the media produces different films and series basing on the mindsets and desires of people of this world today.

Would you believe that the psychological disorders which I had studied while doing a counselling degree are now slowly being accepted as sexual preferences or choices?

Let me explain…

BDSM which has been unknown to most of the people previously has become popular among many today. I feel very scared to even think about it even.

I watched a series recently on the same subject and was amazed how it ended. A married woman who loves her husband a lot. The husband is a very good man and loves his wife as well. They didn’t have any problems whatsoever. But the woman always feels very lonely staying all the time at home when her husband is at work. She eventually meets a man on a chatting site who insists her to meet him at his place. She doesn’t agree initially but thought of giving a try as she is attracted to what the man used to write about sexual submission and dominance. And finally, she visits him and submits to his dominance. She suffers from a psychological issue later on and to help her out, her husband comes to know about her secret life. The story ends with the husband releasing his wife to that man. Message of the story was – Lust won over the chastity of marriage.

Examples like the above, are many, I can’t list them out all here.

Famous psychiatrist and author Judith Orloff, M.D. rightly says, “As a psychiatrist, I’ve seen how intense sexual attraction is notorious for obliterating common sense and intuition in the most sensible people.”

Crimes Led By Lust:

Lust is an intense mental state which leads a person to commit heinous and soul stirring crimes.

The Bible mentions a good king who fell for a beautiful woman, slept with her and to marry her, he murdered her husband craftily.

We are aware of the crimes against women and children in the forms of sexual abuses, molestations, rapes caused by lust.

Have you ever heard about ‘Lust Murder’? Wikipedia explains, “A lust murder is a homicide in which the offender searches for erotic satisfaction by killing someone”. I was shaken literally when I read this sentence.

Apart from strong sexual urges, lust can also depict intense cravings for food, money and power as well which ultimately leads to various small and big crimes happening daily around us. Lust of money leads people to rob things from others. Lust of food makes people sick and obese. Lust of power creates disparity in the country and war situations around the world.

Chastity against lust:

In this context of lust, talking about Chastity seems meaningless and impossible. Isn’t it? It looks like Chastity has been swallowed up by the lust of human beings in this world. But we all are aware of the consequences; lust can only lead us to destruction.

The Bible stirs our minds with few thought-provoking questions –

“Can a man take fire in his bosom
And his clothes not be burned?
Or can a man walk on hot coals
And his feet not be scorched?”

We know the answer very well. Lust is like fire, like burning hot coals that can burn our chest, our body if we embrace onto it. It can burn our feet if we walk on its path.

Chastity is also a state or practice of refraining from extramarital, or especially from all, sexual intercourse. Basically, chastity means sexual purity.

So, as human we can live in one or other way – live a life of purity or lead an impure life. We can’t stay in a 50-50 condition because, a tiny bit of impurity soils and spoils everything. Yes, I understand that we as human are not perfect, we have weaknesses but there have to have a constant striving within us for perfection – moving from impurity to purity. When we stay stagnant at a point, we stay impurity of lust.

In short, I want to mention a few helpful points for our striving towards Chastity in the land of lust. They are as under:

Guarding my eyes: The Bible says, ““I made a covenant with my eyes not to look with lust at a young woman”. There’s a tendency in us to look at another person of the opposite sex with lust but when we prayerfully practice it not to do so, one day we see the result ourselves. Practice makes a man perfect. But there has to have goal setting and willingness to strive for a life of purity.

Guarding my mind: The Bible says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”The Bible verse doesn’t contradict the natural instinct of human beings getting attracted to the physical bodies of people of the opposite gender. In fact, that is how we are made! But, lust in the mind creates a craving for adultery in action – “a thought of having physical or sexual relationship with the woman I am looking at.”The eyes look at the woman, sends the message back and there’s a thought evolves in the mind instructing the eyes to look at the woman again and again. But when we guard our mind by constant striving, we can help stopping the lustful thought process and ultimately, we can hope for a positive result one day.

Guarding my steps: I always need to know whom I am following, what I am following. Am I feeding myself with filthy stuffs or feeding myself with good things? I can’t expect to be pure if I keep watching pornography. I can’t expect to be compassionate if I rear hatred in my heart. I can’t strive for chastity if I keep looking at this woman or that.

The Bible says,Don’t imitate the behavior and patterns of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” If I want to change the mindset of my community and the people around me then I have to first change myself. That is possible if I do what is right. I can do what is right if I know and understand what is right. If I follow what people are doing then I will surely be faltering sooner or later. I need to know where and how I am walking in my life.

Friends! Preaching is easy, practicing is very hard, and living it, is all the more difficult. It is a challenge for all of us to maintain Chastity in the midst of a lustful world but it is not impossible and also beneficial for us. Let’s keep guarding our eyes, our minds, and our steps.

Stay Blessed!

IT BRINGS AN EXTRA SPRING IN MY STEPS…

There is a flood of Reality Shows on TV. Dance competitions, singings battles, talent hunts, cooking competitions, etc. What makes people turn up in such huge numbers for this? One basic requirement – of being recognised, of being appreciated. Of course, there is the lure of the prize money also but for most of them it is the appreciation they get for the hard work they put in for each show, that is the biggest motivator.

I can say this from my own experience. While I was doing a job I used to thrive on appreciation. Of course, I did not get appreciated for every work of mine (I was not that good employee!!) but then whenever I got appreciated for a job well done there was a sense of achievement in me. Satisfaction of a job well done and being recognised for its worth. It could be a very small thing like a file submitted on time or a bigger thing like a huge presentation in front of the top bosses. A small word of appreciation also unknowingly brings an extra spring in my step. The other worries begin to seem a bit distant, at least for some time.

Basically, I am a very lazy person. Especially when it comes to the routine and mundane chores of life. I admit I am a huge procrastinator. I realised this about myself when I left my job and became a full-time homemaker (or as they say commonly ‘house-wife’). I am sure all my friends in a similar situation will agree with me when you do household chores the compliments and appreciations you get are few and far between. On the other hand, people start questioning “What do you do the whole day?” If you put in extra effort and make a tasty meal then there will be a shower of compliments but who will appreciate the daily ka Dal Chawl (Rice and Pulses). Life is not like the Surf Excel commercials where the husband is ecstatic and swooning when the wifey makes his dirty shirt white again. In this phase of my life what I missed the most was appreciation (and also my salary  😉 ). The whole day you work but the work had no meaning at all. Next day again the same routine.

Once I started writing for Candles online, initially I had very little confidence in my abilities. I used to be over the moon if I got a comment of appreciation on my article. It was like the work I was doing made sense again. You won’t believe for the first few articles I used to go online every fifteen minutes and check the number of likes and views. And the words of appreciation from the Boss Man himself gave me confidence and motivated me to write again and again.

Recently, I have started working again. The other day a friend of mine complimented me that you are looking good, or rather looking better than earlier. Her words made me wonder what has changed. Stepping out into the work world again, I realised that the very fact that I am going out and meeting others and the way I present myself would be noticed has made me take a bit extra care while dressing up. Earlier when I was going down to the bus stop to pick up my kids from school I was not bothered about how I looked. Who will notice anyway? That was my thought process.

I could be wrong. There is another school of thought on this point. Which says that we should not live our life by what others say about us. We should do what makes us happy even if the world thinks we are wrong. I agree to that completely. We cannot channel our life based on other people’s opinions. But a few words of appreciation do matter.

I can vouch for myself. A few words of appreciation or a tiny bit of recognition really do make my day. In that way, I am a true blue Leo.  I crave for appreciation, I thrive on appreciation.

Try it sometime. Try telling a lady that she has lost weight and she will be smiling away the whole day. Or compliment her on the dress she is wearing, you have boosted her confidence for the day. Appreciate your house help on a job well done and she will try to keep up that standard every day. Appreciate your child’s achievement, however small it may be and see how he gets motivated to do more.

People do crave for recognition, they do thrive on appreciation as we do.

APOLOGISE IF YOU HAVE ERRED

A world where no one commits mistakes, a world where no one hurts anyone or is hurt by anyone, a world where everything that is right is done – what an easy world that would be! A perfect world! A utopian wish, indeed! The world in which we live is anything but close to it. Because we are imperfect living beings in this world, we are bound to falter. Hence, the need to apologize.

A FEW MYTHS THAT NEED BUSTING

  • MYTH: Strive to please everyone. Then you will not have to apologise.

This is far from the truth. The needs, personalities and values of every individual are different. And so, there is almost always a gap between desirable behaviour and real behaviour. An old aged man may want you to sit by his bedside all day long. A six-year-old may want you to play with her as she sets up her dollhouse. Your boss may want you to work overtime everyday without extra pay. In all such circumstances if one strives to please all others, then s/he will end up fighting the guilt pangs and apologising to one’s own self. The truth is that you can never please everyone. It comes with costs. So, there is a need to apologise.

  • MYTH: Apologising would only make you look small in the eyes of others.

Apologising never makes one look small in the eyes of sensible others. It takes a person of pure and courageous heart to admit one’s mistake and apologise. It lifts off the heavy burden from the heart. Rendering an apology helps earn respect. Of course, there will always be people who don’t think much of an apology and one may feel a loss of one’s self-esteem apologising to such people. Nevertheless, it builds a reputation for oneself as an honest apologiser.

  • MYTH: You must apologise only to those elder to you in age or higher than you in authority.

This is a mere carry-over effect of conventional thought patterns of the yesteryears. Younger ones are at times made to apologise to older adults, while adults never think it amiss to commit the same mistakes. This creates a wrong precedence. Apologising to those younger in age or to subordinates sets up an example for them to follow. When children experience parents apologising to them, they learn to do the same. When couples apologise to each other, it removes hidden barriers and makes way for closer bonding.

  • MYTH: Cowards apologise for fear of consequences. The brave don’t budge.

Well actually, its the other way round. The brave step forward to admit their mistakes and apologise even at the cost of ridicule or punishment. Don’t you think it would take courage to own up one’s wrong and say, “I have done it”? People who don’t apologise are the ones who can’t dare to face the truth about themselves or are apprehensive to pay the price that would come as a result of owning up.

  • MYTH: Once you apologise or are apologised to, the relationship is restored.

While it is true that accepting the apology of someone or apologising to someone smoothens the creases, it does not necessarily restore the existing relationship. Restoration takes hard work. It may not happen at times because one or more of among those involved are unwilling. However, an apology rendered and an apology accepted make relationships at least tolerable.

THE LANGUAGE OF APOLOGY

One may apologise in person, verbally or send a letter of apology if the offended person is staying far away. Also, it is important to note that – apology has to be to God and to the offended person. At times it is easier to confess and apologise to God than look the offended person in the eye and beg pardon. However, it is necessary.

For an apology to be complete, the apology rendered by one has to be accepted by the other. In other words, when forgiveness by the offended follows an apology from the offender, the apology is complete.

However, this doesn’t always happen. At times, simply saying ‘Sorry’ is not enough. Take for example, a person who has been reprimanded by his boss for reporting late to office. If he apologises and continues to come late everyday, there is no way the boss can accept his apology. An apology has to be followed up by corrective action to be effective. The person in the example has to report on time every day so that he rectifies his errant behaviour.

Another example – A woman in an extramarital relationship owns up before her husband and begs his forgiveness. Simply saying, ‘I am sorry, I cheated on you’ is not the end of the apology. It has to be followed by an open discussion on the whole issue and what corrective measures she/they need to take to restore their relationship.

Difficulties in apologising arise because of –

  • People are unable to apologise because of a sense of self-worth. Apologising releases oneself from the burden of guilt.
  • At times people admit and apologise, but are hesitant to discuss the whole thing at length. This leaves behind unanswered questions and creates enough room for misunderstandings to trickle in. An open discussion at the cost of being uncomfortable gives the much-needed closure to the errant episode.
  • Many people do not apologise because they fear rejection. However, continuing a relationship with a false base of trust is not a solid foundation for a lasting relationship.
  • People do not apologise because they don’t want to accept responsibility. It is easy to shift the blame to someone else rather than point one’s finger to self. Learning to say ‘I am/was wrong’ shows the maturity of character.

We not only need to apologise but also need to forgive those who apologise to us without carrying a grudge on others. Our Creator God continues to forgive us each day. We need to forgive because we are forgiven.

“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” – THE BIBLE

THE COFFEE THAT MADE HISTORY

My footsteps echoed with a plangency, that almost scared me. As I walked, through the lighted but empty hallway, I could hear, the westerly winds, making the Eucalyptus tree leaves, rustling with fear. It was that kind of a night. My palms were wet with sweat and my heart was racing ahead of me. It was as if I was walking through the deep dark forest with the sunbathed leaves crunching under my foot, only this was the lighted hallway of my Operation Theatre. Every footstep accentuated the deadening silence that engulfed me. Suddenly, her giggles broke the monotony of that engulfing silence and grew louder. It was her trademark giggle and somehow it was music to my ears. Women have this nature of arriving from nowhere and imposing themselves on the scene. Perhaps, God has made them that way. “Meena”, I called in desperation.

Meena was the best Scrub Nurse, that I, a young and inexperienced Surgeon could have, in my graveyard shift. She opened the Operation Theatre door with a smile and said, “Perfect!! your patient has already been wheeled in”. I peeped in to see, the young kid, with a stick inside his abdomen and said in exasperation, “I dunno, whether the child will survive”. She immediately shot back, “It’s not for ours to think of survival. We are the means, never the end”. Women do that. They are masters at a refocussing back to ground zero realities and whenever they do that, God above smiles. You might think, “how insensitive!!”, but they love blurting out pathway driven truths. “The Anaesthetist is on his way and before he arrives, I have brewed some Coffee. It’s not the best in the World but will serve the purpose of re-energizing us“, she said smiling. “Gosh!! I need the coffee”, I thought. “How did she know that?” A million dollar question which men have been trying to answer since times immemorial. Women somehow know the onlooker better than the onlooker knows them. It’s a thought process that’s engraved inside that busy brain of theirs, since birth.

The coffee was soothing. One sip and my parched and drought-ridden throat suddenly had a voice. Meena was wearing her blue scrubs and sipping coffee with me. “Hows it?”, she asked. “It’s not the best in the World, but serves our purpose emphatically”, I said. “Ahh!!! the humour is back“, she blurted out immediately. “My coffee works, Isn’t it?“, she said it with a chuckle. I kind of knew by that time that she was loathing me back to confidence. Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Women are like tea bags, you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water. Women somehow love to stand up and deliver in difficult situations, a thing we men always note but forget to mention until Valentine’Day or Women’s Day.” She expectingly asked, “Sir, how is it, that you are quickly able to sip away the piping hot coffee?”. I answered with a smile, “coffee is always good when hot because it fires up the fatigued neurons to act”. She immediately retorted back, “Isn’t this patient similar to the hot coffee, you are drinking?” When I gave an inquisitive look, she further added, “to operate on a difficult and diseased patient, takes courage but results in increased skills, which go down a long way to make you more daring, for such cases”. I argued back saying, “Surgery is an art, Meena!!” She coyly smiled and said, “Sir, Surgery is definitely an art, but Surgery is also a dare. For the skills to get better, the dare is essential”. She had a point there, I thought. Just then the Anaesthetist arrived and we scrubbed for the Surgery. We operated on the kid, and found a hole in the intestine and repaired it. The child remained over 2 months in our Surgical Ward and went home after that.

Its been 10 years since that day but it still rings clear in my head, whenever I am reluctantly operating on a sick patient. Meena’s words still echo and have over the years become a guiding light. Here was a woman, who taught me something, that no Medical College did. That eventful night, she changed a mindset for good. Now I relish a dare because 10 years back she proved it for me. She gave me belief, hope, desire and topped it with lots of smiles. For me, she has and will always remain a “Woman of Substance“. As we celebrate International Women’s Day, I salute her indomitable spirit. Its always has been my prayer, “May her tribe increase“.

FREEDOM SANS RESPONSIBILITY = MISUSED FREEDOM

When little Mercy was not allowed to enter the kitchen or step out of doors without either of her parents accompanying her, she felt caged. A precocious child with just six years of experience on planet earth, she failed to understand why her ‘freedom’ was curtailed. She shared with her Diary Pal how she wished to be free!

Neha was a new bride. Transition from a nuclear family of four to an extended household of twelve hasn’t been easy for her. With the burden of household work and practically no me-time, she wished she could be free.

Jimmy hated his schedule. Wake up early in the morning and exercise before school, heaps of assignments to complete after school, tuitions for helping raise his grades that have been spiraling downwards of late, prepare for periodic tests and sleep off. No time to play or watch TV. To top it all, his mobile has been confiscated by his well-meaning father. At fourteen, Jimmy craves for freedom.

We all have such Mercys, Nehas and Jimmys within us and around us. Oh to have the wings of a bird and fly freely in the sky! But, how do we respond when given such freedom? Freedom is treasured by those who know its worth. It is misused by people who do not value it.

In this article, I’ll focus on the flip side of freedom in relationships.

1. Taken for granted – Shackles are mere objects as many others that one sees around, unless used to bind a person. A shackled person knows the value of freedom like no other. For a person who has never been shackled, freedom doesn’t connote much. As a result there is not much accountability for overt behaviour – be it words or actions. Bonded labourers in faraway lands, treasure freedom when released because once upon a time their freedom was highly elusive. Freedom in relationships is often misused when it is taken for granted. Every relationship is governed by certain unspoken rules of life (besides the clearly charted out ones). These territories of unspoken jurisdiction are the ones which are taken for granted.

The very next day of marriage, the husband decides to make two cups of morning tea for himself and his new bride. This morning routine goes on for days, after which comes a day that he is taken sick. Now if the wife comes back from her morning walk and throws tantrums on not getting her cup of tea, this is precisely a ‘taken for granted’ attitude. Doesn’t this happen often?

2. Lies and Deceit – When freedom comes easy, lies and deceit creep in subtly untaught. Often such lying and deceit go unnoticed till there is a full-blown problem at hand.

A child is given INR 100 to buy certain essentials that the mother requires. On returning, he gives the account of the amount spent and says that he has dropped the remaining amount in the donation box kept in the shop to help an NGO that takes care of orphans. He scores brownie points before his mother for his act of compassion, while in reality he has pocketed the change as a saving for his piggy bank. Another young girl permitted by her parents to spend a night to study with her female friend just before exams, sneaks out to spend the night in her boyfriend’s apartment.

3. Indulgence – Well, this is essentially a foot in the door technique! A little freedom initially emboldens one for more freedom either with permission or with coercion and compulsion. This is a common predicament of the parents of many teenagers, among others. Let me cite a true incident of a young couple who had come to me for Counseling.

A lovestruck couple married young, when both were 21 years of age. After the initial craze of being with each other wore off, the husband felt that he didn’t want to be tied down. He wanted to spend time with his friends (who were of course still studying in college!). The thoughtful wife didn’t throw any tantrums and let her husband have some free time without her. Gradually, those one or two hours of being with friends increased to whole evenings and at times even to night outs, thus annoying the wife. They celebrated their first marriage anniversary with a newborn in their arms. Still the husband’s evening outings and night outs continued. They had their second child two years later. Yet, no change in the young husband’s behaviour and a resultant friction between the couple! A little well-intended freedom created enough room for irresponsible behaviour.

4. Indiscipline – High levels of permissiveness leave no room for accountability. Hence, certain behavioural patterns ensue, sans accountability. Lets consider the common sleep-wake schedules. Without the help of an alarm or a loved one to wake up, most people would end up waking at mid-day. And without a self-check or being prodded by someone to go to bed on time, most people would end up sleeping earlier or later than required and thus would have a chaotic next day at work. Perks of limitless freedom!

In parenting, permissiveness is known for very few guidelines and rules coupled with fulfilling of all the demands of children sans accountability. Thus, children of permissive parents end up exhibiting the same behaviour as adults in their personal relationships and at their workplaces. A couple who have the laissez-faire approach to life are likely to end up with deep resentment for each other within a short span of time simply because their freedom has created inroads to several unwanted guests like anger, jealousy, lack of schedule, etc.

The above four discussed ways of misusing freedom do not in anyway advocate against freedom in relationships. Freedom with responsibility is the freedom that is enjoyed best. Freedom sans boundaries leaves the gateway open for several intruders to invade into our lives and create unwanted pandemonium. After all, not all things that are permissible are beneficial.

The Bible says –

“I have the right to do anything . . . but not everything is beneficial. I have the right to do anything . . . but not everything is constructive.”