ABSENCE OF GUILT IS DANGEROUS; ITS PRESENCE CALLS FOR REPENTANCE

Sensitivity about right and wrong is in-built in every human soul. Be it among the mortals residing in secluded tribal lands or those dwelling atop tall skyscrapers in modern cities, all are privy to moral laws etched in the human heart by the Creator.

When I heard the word ‘conscience’ for the first time in the Moral Science classes at primary school, the concept was a bit intriguing. With the cognitive functioning skills yet to attain the fullest extent of maturity, it took some grappling to get to the bottom of the big word with a difficult spelling (at that time 🙂 ). But, I vividly remember the examples cited by my teacher. To quote one of the examples, “If Mummy has asked you not to touch the sweets kept on the dining table and you quietly grab one and rush into another room when no one is watching, how do you feel? Do you feel your heart racing? Do you feel afraid that Mummy would either give you a piece of her mind or a spanking, when she finds out what you’ve done? If you feel such pricking within you, that is your conscience. Your conscience is pricking you because you are guilty! You have done something wrong.”

It was very easy to understand the concept with such examples. Thanks to such teachers who helped instill moral values in tender minds!

Conscience is installed by default programming within each of us by God, the Intelligent Programmer. It is further shaped and nurtured as we build on our relationship with Him. And, it dies off when the connecting wires are chipped off. I prefer calling it the ‘Guilt Indicator’. This indicator beeps within when there are certain erroneous acts of omission and commission by us. How we respond to these beeps shapes our character and personality.

There are two possible responses to the pricks of the conscience:

  1. To scan within
  2. To ignore

Scanning within

When scanning within to explore the probable genuineness of the Guilt Indicator, there can be two outcomes – one, a confirmation of the wrongdoing and a desire to admit, repent and make amends/ face the consequences or two, a confirmation of the wrongdoing followed by plans of covering up or burying the cause of the pricking. To give examples of the above two outcomes – A man murders his wife and responding to the nudges of his conscience, he realizes that he is guilty and so he goes to the Police Station and turns himself in ready to face the consequences. Another man also murders his wife, but schemes to hide the evidence so that he won’t be caught. Both scan within, both realize that they are guilty, but then, respond to their guilt in two entirely different ways.

Ignoring outrightly

There are many who give a cold shoulder to the beeps of the Guilt Indicator. They refuse to acknowledge the pricks within. Most of the anti-socials, psychopaths and sociopaths fall into this response category. They lack remorse or guilt for their actions. No wonder we amaze at certain people saying, ‘How on earth can someone be so barbaric!’ Statistics show that a majority of cold-blooded murders are committed under the influence of alcohol. Most confessions of serial killers reveal that they consume alcohol in excess quantities before executing the commissioned task and that they wouldn’t be able to kill while sober. Alcohol snubs their conscience! It numbs their guilt pangs temporarily.

I remember having presented a paper on an in depth study on Psychopathic Personality Disorder during my Post-Grad studies in which I had referred to the movie – ‘The Silence of the Lambs’ and to the Noida serial murders at Nithari (it was a hot topic in India that time) as my case studies to make the audience have a clear understanding of the disorder. My point in mentioning this here is to draw home the point that ignoring one’s guilt pangs eventually brings out a cruel form of the self which was never meant to be so in the first place.

God has not embedded the conscience within us by accident. He knows that when His created human beings respond to this nudge from within, they would be sensitive to His voice and thus would refrain from deviating from His ordained path.

How many times a day do we lie in some way or the other? How many times a day we cheat in some form or the other? How many times a day do we allow our eyes to feast on illicit content? And, how many times do we hoodwink ourselves to justifying every such act of ours?

I look at the world today and see many events which were naturally meant to evoke guilt in people being justified, rationalized, in some cases even legalized and made into acceptable norms. No, these are not indicative of liberal post-modern mindsets. These are simply acts of rebuffing the divine design without remorse. How else would you explain the mushrooming of strip clubs and casinos in most known pleasure resorts of the world?

Keeping the conscience alive and nurturing it with Godly wisdom is the way to live lives in consonance with the norms of the Creator. Ignoring the nudges of the conscience leads it to a slow death, thus turning hearts of flesh into hearts of stone.

However, once the guilt is accepted and atoned for, it should be bidden a farewell and not carried on forever. When you feel guilty, deal with it and then leave it. Do not ignore it. Do not dwell on it for an indefinite period. Do not feel guilty simply because other people make you feel so. Do not feel guilty for things that are beyond your control. Don’t push others to feeling guilty.

The best way to start dealing with guilt is confessing the wrongdoing before God. He forgives and gives second chances to those who truly repent, no matter what the severity of the guilt may be. And, He comforts those who harbour unnecessary guilt by lifting up their burden. He cancels the guilt of the guilty!

The whole creation explains how awesome and big is our Creator…
We realize it when we ponder upon His handy works, all around.

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!

I AM LOOKING THE WAY I AM!

Yes, I’m dark and skinny! What’s wrong? Am I in the place of God that I will change the colour of my skin and the structure of my body!

Recently, my cab driver shares with me his problem. Though he is a married young man having a kid yet his struggle is “Body Shamming”! Throughout the ride, he shared how he is always discriminated against and become the joke in his peer group, just because he is a little skinny. He said, “Though I earn hefty and having a beautiful wife and kid yet I’m not happy! I feel like I’m not complete. But what can I do? How can I change my physical structure?”

One of the lowest cost and heavily profitable businesses in Urban India is “Salons, Spas & Gym”. Almost 80% urbanite visit to a Spa or to a Beauty Salon on every weekend and 92% young people between 16-35yr, at least spend 2 hrs at Gym daily. It is good to stay healthy and fit but today our talk has gone little ahead – You need to look glamorous and acceptable or else get ready to be squared!

People are mostly replaced and mocked because of their physical structure and look. It always reminds me of a particular man from my hometown. Recently, I met him on the street and greeted him and in response, he said, “Your tummy is coming out!” It is okay to ignore such a comment or take it positively at once or twice but how to tolerate when every other time someone will bump on you to talk about your look. I remember last year we were in a conference and the same man commented on my look, while we were having coffee in a group with a few other friends.

How to deal with such people???

Do you know every human being has the birthright of freedom to think and speak? There is no power under the heaven and on earth to put barriers to someone’s thought. So, let’s make a wise deal, as I cannot change someone’s thinking let me not spoil my own peace by putting my nose into filthy talks.Giving a nice plastic smile and keeping safety measure can be a nice option!

But how to deal with body shaming when you face it with the family and friends???

Imagine! You are in a family gathering and your cousins will taunt you “hum khate pitte ghar ke hain” (we are from a well-nourished family). Yes, it is good to be a foodie but why to jeer someone and tag yourself foodie just because your cousin is too skinny!

Among your friends, you were singled out because you are not handsome and fashionable! Even at times knowingly people will ignore you in the public gathering because you won’t look the way they want you to look like.

Though some people are educated and of noble character yet they face rejection during matchmaking just because their skin colour and body structure are different!   

Everything that comes from the outside never spoils us rather it is what springs from inside of us defiles us. When we face body shame it never defiles our joy and peace rather when we start pondering on those catcalls then we start feeling ashamed on our looks.

I remember one night while returning home at night 10 o’ clock my bus banged on another bus and we all passengers were stranded in the middle of a jungle. After a long wait for a lift to the next bus stop, a cab came and immediately four fat people pulled me aside and jumped into the car. At split of a second the back seat was full and in the front, there was already a man along with the cab driver. Again another fat man pulled me aside asking the driver for a lift but the driver denied him and offered me that seat because I was the only thin person to adjust in there. So, the people skinny like me should not feel discouraged; be optimistic, it is only we skinny people who can easily travel in half-seats.

It was January 2017 on a winter night I was on the bus and was very angry with God. Grumbling at Him, “Why He has created me like this skinny and dark? How beautiful it would be if I would be a little fair and of good health?” As we were waiting for the green light to show up, I saw a very beautiful girl, looks like a professional climbed the steps of the bus struggling to balance herself with the support of a crutch. I was dumbfounded as tears rolled from my eyes and I asked God for forgiveness!

The Bible says,

So God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them.

God is the creator of mankind and He had uniquely created us!

Uniqueness doesn’t mean we need to fashion and look like a celebrity rather we need to realize – “we are created as the celebrity of our life’s destiny and there is no one second to it!” Secondly, we need to understand when God has created each of us uniquely that means we all hold a stark difference between each other and this difference is not to grumble with self, murmur about God and keep shaming others rather it is to enjoy the beauty & unity with our diverse look!

Don’t shame! Don’t feel ashamed!

YOU’RE BEAUTIFUL, JUST THE WAY YOU ARE!

Avinash Das

BEAUTIFUL JUST THE WAY YOU ARE

Beautiful, glowing faces everywhere I see,
Spotless, flawless angelic mien adorned with glee.
I wonder what are they trying to conceal,
what may come out when this mask they peel.
I wonder what brutal flaws they think trying to hide,
with what pain and agony they hopelessly abide.
I wonder why the prejudice about their beautiful bodies and flaws,
I for one, divulge and wear them with pride without cause.
I flaunt my insecurities, I’m not ashamed of them,
these glitches, they make me glow brighter than any gem.
They help me heal, they remind me I’m strong,
hiding, concealing won’t let me stand out in the throng.
You can’t and won’t heal,
if all those beautiful flawless flaws you conceal.

“Oh wow! The colour of her skin is so fair and perfect!” Exclaimed the dusky beauty.

Gosh! He’s got such a perfect muscular body.” Sighed the handsome chubby guy.

Who said that only fair skin is perfect or only slim is beautiful!?

According to whom is chubby not being healthy or dark skin not gorgeous!?

Where is this scale that everyone is referring to and who made them?

The answer to this is…. (stating the obvious) our society, those advertising companies, clothing companies, models, beauty parlours… just to name a few.

We live in a world where our thoughts are influenced by the media and the people surrounding us.

Where models, who probably live on just an apple or a can of energy drink a day, tell us how to be fit. Where facial cream companies shamelessly declare that dark skin is not perfect and lighten the skin tone by using their products. Where clothing companies and different high-end brands sell clothes only to petite people as if being voluptuous is a crime.

What actually these companies are doing is that they are selling you your insecurities. They are brainwashing minds of people of all ages and sexes and compelling them to follow a certain pattern for their profits. To sell their products, they are stuffing our minds with their desired thoughts. They are feeding off of our ‘self-doubt’ and minting money.

As a teenager, I had loads of pimples on my face (hormonal changes, puberty). So people, everywhere I went, used to look at me as if having acne is a sin. Salespersons who are practically at strangers, who sold ‘beauty products’, used to approach me with bizarre questions, frowning, disgusted, asking…” Oh gosh!! aren’t you doing anything about your skin!?..use this particular product..your face will be cleared in no time”. Mind you, they weren’t doing this out of goodwill.

Well, the big question is, how will applying a cream on my skin, fix the hormonal changes happening in my body?? So I never paid any heed to these kinds of irrelevant comments. And with time, my skin got better.

So what I mean to say is don’t let anyone use your flaws or insecurities against you. Don’t let anyone intimidate you by telling that you are not how you are supposed to be.

The first thing everyone needs to realise is that they are beautiful and just perfect the way they are.

No matter what colour your skin is, what size or shape you are, you just have to understand that you are beautiful.

Body shamming has become such a common thing now. It’s like an insane trend everyone seems to follow.

A lady who delivered a baby got back in just 1 month and a mother of 2 kids who is still voluptuous, are both beautiful. A man/boy who is thin and short and one who is muscular and tall, both are handsome. A human who is dark, dusky, wheatish, fair (or any other skin colour) is gorgeous.

Be the change, bring about the change, if you want things around you to better. Don’t make anyone feel any less about themselves. Stop self-pity. Have confidence in yourself. No matter who you are, how you are, what you do or where you are, just remember…you are beautiful and perfect just the way you are.

TAKE IT IN YOUR STRIDE

I look at myself in the mirror and more often than not I don’t like what I see there.

‘God couldn’t my hair be a bit more straighter..’
‘Oh, why do I have this big nose? Can’t I make it a bit sharper?’
‘Oh my… The greys are visible again.. Need to hide them.’
‘This dress makes me look fat.’
‘Had I been a couple of inches taller I would have looked better.’

So on and so forth. So basically I have an ability to find a new flaw in my body every day.
This is mostly true for all of us, we don’t need anyone else to body shame us. We ourselves do this job perfectly.

The idea of a perfect look and body type is so much ingrained in us that we can never be happy in our own skin. The advertisements, movies and recently ‘Photoshop’ don’t allow us to accept even a small blemish on our skin. The leading pair in any movie always have a gym ready size zero figure and the fat friend of the hero or heroine are solely there for comic relief… This attitude has rubbed off on our daily life also. And many a time we don’t even realize that we are being body shamed.

This time in Ganpati celebration we ladies also decided to put up a small dance performance. Since the day it was decided I think everyone who came to know about it makes a joke on the sturdiness of the stage. ‘Will the stage hold up?’ ‘So many ladies dancing together there’s gonna be an earthquake.’ Well, let them say what they want. Let them laugh as much as they want we will dance because we enjoy it.

Remember no one is perfect. If you are thin they call you a matchstick. If you are fat then you can get varied nicknames from fatso to football or hippo. If you are tall then ‘Why does she wear heels?’ If you are short then ‘She looks like a school girl. when will she grow up?’

Even celebrities and top models don’t get spared. The fashion columnists are earning big bucks by just pointing out the flaws in the celebrity looks, their dress, makeup weight increase, weight loss etc. I sometimes wonder about the pressure these celebrities must be under to always show up in a perfect body, hair, makeup, dresses etc.

I once saw a video by actress Sonam Kapur showing the amount of effort and number of people required to bring out that perfect look. It made me realise one thing. No one is perfect. Don’t take the comments to your heart. Take it in your stride.

The skin colour, hair colour, body shape, facial features are unique to you. Be proud of it. The only thing in our hand is to live a healthy lifestyle. Rest is all in our Genes.

FAT SHAME AND SKINNY SHAME

“Do you really have to eat cheese? Don’t you see how much you are bulging from your hips?”

Shanaya was too tired of listening to this. Sometimes her boyfriend would say something about her diet and other times one of her friends or sisters would make her realize how fat she has become since last few months. She has always been heavy built, no matter how much she went to the gym, dance classes or aerobics, her weight would never go down. Since her college days, she had been humiliated because of the way her figure is. She obviously looked a bit older than her age because of her size.

In spite of the fact that she was heavy, she loved eating. She couldn’t resist food. She relished eating and she had a knack for different kinds of taste. Italian, Chinese, continental, Indian, Thai or any other cuisine, she loved it all. Though she knew that she had to control her diet to look fab, she tried her best but she failed miserably almost every time.

She hated herself, her body, her looks, her liking towards food, everything. She remembered her mother saying,” You better control your weight or else you will look ugly and fat”. That was the first time she thought the words fat and ugly are synonymous. And yes, they were. That is exactly what TV and magazine advertisements proved.

Depression can prove to be very harmful to a growing girl who turned into a woman. She had found a way out of this depression. She used to exercise like crazy; she loved dancing and working out in the gym. She started doing this to get in shape, but she really started liking this. Now, the gym was not a place where she felt miserable but it turned into a place where she could just lose herself and sweat out all her anger and depression.

She thought how lucky are the people who can eat whatever they want and still stay thin without sweating in gym or dance. There was one name that came striking to her every time she thought of such people – Nancy. Nancy was so lucky, she could have chocolates, cakes, ice-creams everything without feeling guilty at all, coz nothing changed her slim figure. How does this happen to a few people and cannot happen to her? Is it even possible that a girl like Nancy can ever feel pathetic and have low body image?

“Real women have real curves. I don’t even know how any guy would find you even desirable with such a skinny flat figure.”

“Eat more bananas with milk, it will add to your body weight”

“Did you try those new creams I got for you? They are supposed to add fat to your skin.”

Nancy ended up crying in a room because this was a millionth time she had heard her elder sister say this to her. Her friends said the same thing. Why am I so flat? Why can’t I have a full figure? She was really slim. She ate a lot; her appetite was as much as of a guy. But it didn’t affect her body at all. She loved eating just like Shanaya, she too took weight gaining courses in the gym and with a nutritionist. She even applied all sort of oils to make her body look fuller and curvy than flat. Nothing really worked and she felt miserable about it.

Nancy too hated her body. She usually used to think, how lucky Shanaya is, at least she had good curves. What if she has a little fat on her belly and her hips, it makes her even more desirable.

“I don’t understand why Shanaya keeps crying about her own body. She looks perfect. People say that she looks like a perfect full figure.” thought Nancy.

On the other hand, Shanaya thought, “Nancy is so crazy. Can’t she see those models in TV, they all are skinny. I think she just doesn’t understand how fortunate she is to have a body that doesn’t gain weight at all. She will never have to worry about her weight.

Nancy was talking to herself at the same time, “Shanaya doesn’t get that model look so artificial and look good only on the television. No guy really wants a size zero girlfriend, they want a sexy girl with complete beauty.”

“Nancy feels pathetic about her body and I have no clue why. If a girl like her goes around the beach in a bikini, people are going to like her. If a girl like me goes around in a bikini, people will take offence in that. They will suggest me not to do something like this until she has a slimmer figure.” said Shanaya to herself.

“Shanaya doesn’t know how much it pinches when people call me flat. When people say that I am not desirable, how rejected I feel at every comment of this kind.” thought Nancy.

Both Shanaya and Nancy had to work on their own body image. But both of them had to realize that this world is so full of confusion about what really is beautiful. They had to realize that beauty is what you define. Beauty is a combination of inner beauty, confidence and natural sex appeal. And it has got nothing to do with what media portrays or people believe. It has to come from inside of every person.

Fat shame exists and so does skinny shame. Both are equally painful and degrading. Both do the equal damage.