TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT

Is being honest difficult?

Ask that question to anyone who appeared in the court of law to be a witness or were fighting a case. (If we lie under oath, that is considered misleading the court and is a punishable offense.)

Ask that question to a kid who ate the ice- cream stored in the refrigerator without seeking permission.

Ask that question to someone who cheated at work or cheated on their partner.

The answer really depends, mostly on two things. One, Is being honest the right thing to do in this situation? Second, Is the person who I am going to talk to can take it? But, there is one more question we always consider before being honest. That is, Am I ready to take the consequences of being honest. If we think we are not ready, we resort to not being honest. Most people choose dishonesty for themselves more than others. This is my take. Whenever I feel someone is not being honest, the very first doubt that comes to my mind is, what is the fear that is binding them?

Few months ago I organized a virtual team event. One of the activities in the event was – “My friend at work”. Everyone in the team were to talk about a friend at work, what qualities in that friend they like the most and what is that one quality in that friend they would want to cultivate/learn as well. There were around 15 people in the call that day and 5 of them took my name as a good friend. All of them expressed the quality they wish they could learn is my ability to say whatever I feel is right, no matter who I am talking to. “The facts are x and y. Whether we like it or not there is nothing we can do about those facts than accepting them. This is what is doable and this is the impact.. When you say it Aastha, you are assertive asking them to take it or leave it. You are completely honest irrespective of how it might make all of us feel. Showing the mirror is not something everyone can do and you do it with ease. That honesty is not what we get to see often. It is rear and you really deliver the truth well. It is not easy to learn, but I would love to be that courageous“, said one of my very good friend.  After that discussion, I kept wondering if the team was trying to tell me that it hurts them. I started to be watchful about my communications.

Few days later to this, we were discussing some concept for our product which would make users life simple. From a user perspective it made complete sense to me. But, technically there is no such technology that is readily available. We spent few days dwelling all over the internet scouting for some answers. My concerns turned out to be true.  We weighed the pros and cons. The cons out numbered the pros by a large amount. Yet, there are some moments when data is not enough to convince the higher management. There are many who fear that being in good books is more important than being honest. Cannot blame them.

There is a regular meeting in which all core members of the team including business leadership meet once a week. This particular user ask came for discussion. By then, we have presented this in various forums hoping someone would understand why we cannot do it. There are specific standards that cannot be met with existing technology. My inner self could not bear wasting any more time on a feature that we know is practically impossible to build using the existing technology. We don’t have the luxury to do some research given our tight schedule. I was the youngest – both in age and rank in that meeting, yet I could not resist saying it out loud that we are wasting precious time hunting for the two birds in the bush, while letting go of the one we have in hand. I exactly used that phrase. The rest of what I said in the meeting is confidential. Two days later to this meeting, that particular feature was called off, which literally changed the direction in which the program was heading. A sigh of relief it was for me, yet, I was concerned if I overstepped. After this announcement, few people from leadership appreciated me for the candid feedback and being brutally honest, including the leader who made this proposal in the first place and strongly believed having that feature is extremely important. I scheduled a 1-1 with that leader seeking feedback. He explained it to me beautifully about how I was not thinking about likeability and solely my interest was in the products’ future. That conversation erased a lot of my worries.

I am definitely a take or leave it kind of person. It is so in both professional and personal life. Does that hurt others? Yes, in some instances. Does it help me? Of course.

I prefer to be honest with my articles as well and if someone asks me to write what I don’t really believe in, no matter how much I try I cannot write such article. Does honesty have repercussions? Oh yes. Honest trees are cut first. Yet, it is only better to be honest sooner or later. It is extremely difficult to explain dishonest choices than to face the aftermath of being honest. It takes lot of courage to be honest. 

“When you give yourself permission to communicate what matters to you in every situation you will have peace despite rejection or disapproval. Putting a voice to your soul helps you to let go of the negative energy of fear and regret.”
― Shannon L. Alder

HONESTY RUNS THROUGH THE BASIC LEVELS OF COURAGE

Courage is the mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty according to Merriam-Webster dictionary. Courage is something which makes a person stand out in the crowd. Courage is one thing that makes a person face the danger or dare of any kind which most doesn’t put them into. But along with courage, a person needs mental toughness, physical strength and ability to face that amount of danger or risk and sustain instead of succumbing to the danger easily.

The above is the most generic meaning or higher level application of the word Courage which only a few selected ones possess. But as per my knowledge and intellect is concerned courage has THREE basic levels of application through which each and every human being on this earth gets an opportunity to go. And I have categorized those THREE levels of courage as under:

1. Sincerity – Do what is right level of courage:

With the presence of sin and corruption in our gene we are inclined towards insincerity in our responsibility often and we do try to justify our degree of insincerity with some reasons like sickness, weakness and so on. So according to me, when we display a sense of courage to do what is right despite of our excuses or say, valid reasons we succeed to earn respect and attention from people surrounding us.

How many of us are sincere at our workplace

all the time? Have we tried to do the extra hours just to finish what was due of us for that day? How many times we procrastinate and keep things pending. Oh, trust me, I am a biggest example of that, sadly. I may blame my ill health. But sincerity is essential to display the minimum level of courage I have to do things that I know to be right and essential.

Sincerity is an attribute which can be displayed at any point of time or place and is not limited to our workplace only. We need to be sincere with our household chores or duties pertaining to our house or families. We need to be sincere even with our friends.

This level of courage that we need is concerning our duties and responsibilities mostly which we display in our actions. But the next level of courage is higher and more challenging.  

2. Honesty – Say what is right level of courage:

Dealing with people is more challenging than just doing what is right. We face people at every stage of our life. To say the things which we know to be right and make them follow the same is really difficult. In the previous articles we have great examples of how honesty can put us in danger or at a risk. But the challenge of this level is to have the courage to be honest in our actions as well as express mostly.  

In the family while discussing something, I find it extremely difficult to say, “I don’t want to hear anymore, let’s discuss it later as I am feeling stressed.” That was the honest me. But if I say it honestly, then I become selfish, uninterested and escaping.  

3. Justice – Stand for what is right level of courage:

This level is tough as a person has to deal with both his or her responsibilities as well as the people around him or her. He or she has to stand for what he or she believes or does or says as right. Doing justice is one thing and protecting the same is all the more difficult and dangerous in a world where everyone tends to do things other than what is right.

For the fear of superiors, when we don’t stand for someone who becomes the victim of injustice makes us coward or having no courage. Standing for justice is deadly and risky. But I believe if I practice courage at the sincerity level and honesty level then it will be easier for me to display the courage to be just and protect what is right.

Interestingly, I see the courage of sincerity, honesty and justice working at all levels but honesty is predominant among all. Let me explain as I conclude this article.

In the first level of courage when we are honest with our own self we become sincere. In the second level, we display the courage of honesty when we are truthful to ourselves as well as with the people we deal on a day to day basis. And at the end, when we are courageous to stand for justice we are honest to our own selves, honest to the people around us and honest with the creator God who sees everything from above.

Tough? Really, really tough, I would say. But there have always been people who have stood out as ONE and ONLY from the mass and have proved that they can do – be sincere, stand for justice, most importantly be honest with everything and everyone. We just have to practice it in our day to day life to reach to their levels.

Stay Blessed!!!

A LITTLE COURAGE TO BE HONEST

Musafir Ali (a recognized poet) meets Aslam Baig (a recognized wrestler) on the train from Bhopal to Delhi. They were sharing the same compartment. As they see each other, immediately Musafir Ali recognizes Aslam Baig yet he behaves as if it’s their first meet. As the journey is long and somehow both of them started to swap their professional and personal life stories. Meanwhile Musafir shows the ring of famous poet Gulam Nabi Azad which he gifted Musafir after watching Musafir’s performance. In response, Aslam shares the memory of his beautiful, gold-plated, and costly alarm pocket watch “Khusbakht”. For Aslam, Khusbakht was like his wife, it brought him fortunes but unfortunately decades back in a train journey someone stole Khusbakht and as result, Aslam started losing his fortunes. After their conversation, both of them goes to sleep but throughout the night Musafir was unable to sleep properly because a couple of decades back it was Musafir (previously known as Raju Shahwani) who had stolen Khusbakht from Aslam Baig and it was that of his guilt of stealing Khusbakht which was hunting him at present. As it dawns and the train stops at the outer of Delhi station, Musafir decides to quietly put Khusbakht in Aslam’s handbag in his absence, unfortunately, Aslam catches Musafir red-handed. Confessing his sin Musfair leaves the train at Delhi station but Aslam comes running after Musfair and handovers him Khusbakht asking him to hand over Khusbakht to the storekeeper at the Rooh-Saaf store on the next day at 3 pm. Accordingly, Musfair goes to the Rooh-Saaf store the next day to handovers Khusbakht. In response, the storekeeper asks Musafir the name for the record and Musafir mentions his name but the storekeeper says, ‘no mister, I need the name of the person from whom you have stolen Khusbakht’ but being embarrassed Musafir hesitates to mention Aslam Baig’s name. Angrily, the storekeeper asks Musafir to get out of the store and leave his coat of fake honor. Yet to hide his sin Musafir questions the storekeeper, “Why did people visit his store to return the stolen things instead of selling them?” And the storekeeper responds, SELF-RESPECT! Self-respect always bites our conscience. Whatever sins a man may commit he is, after all, a child of God and unless he confesses his sin, his soul remains blemished.” Realizing his sinful state, Musafir takes courage to confess Aslam Baig’s name. Then the storekeeper shows him the beautiful ring of poet Gulam Nabi Azad which Aslam Baig handover the storekeeper the before day soon after leaving the train. The storekeeper also mentions Aslam is one of his regular customers and shows many other pieces of stuffs and wrestling awards that Aslam had stolen before. Because like Musafir, Aslam was also suffering from Kleptomania disorder. The next day, Musafir comes back to the Rooh-Saaf store with a bag full of tiny pieces of stuffs which he had stolen from different people since his childhood.

Yes, you are rightly thinking, this is a story of the legendary Scriptwriter and Filmmaker Mr. Satyajit Ray which is filmed in the recent web series “Ray”.

How analogical is the story to each of our inner states! Isn’t it?

In the Bible, it is beautifully penned, “Our human heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. No human can understand it. It is like a whitewashed tomb which looks beautiful from outside but inside it is filled with rotten stinky bones.”

My inside isn’t visible to others but I can see it. Its sinful state haunts me day and night. I blame people outside for my peace lessness whereas the reason is within me and it needs to be treated at the earliest. “If we won’t treat our sin today, our sin might become our graveyard tomorrow”. For the treatment, all we need is “A LITTLE COURAGE TO BE HONEST. Honest to drop our coat of fake honor like Musafir Ali.” “A LITTLE COURAGE TO BE HONEST. Honest to go for Rooh-Saaf, confession of sin makes us guilt-free.” A LITTLE COURAGE TO BE HONEST. Honest to self and unto others.

In my case, I remember, years back I was invited to an NPO voluntary board as an Asst. Secretary. While we were organizing an event, we had to outsource our work. As we the board members decided to outsource our work, we gave tender for music arrangements to one of our team members. But before signing the tender approval, I asked the Music Arranger to handover all the Music tracks to the Secretary soon after the event since the NPO has paid for it and the NPO is the sole owner of it. Being the youngest member of the team and as well among the Board Members, I was quite sure the Music Arranger will surely retaliate and that might also affect our personal relationship. Even to the extent, of his retaliation I must be embarrassed before the seniors but keeping eye on the mandate of being a voluntary NPO Board Member, I need to be honest in each of my decisions. As I took courage and went honest in my decision, he retaliated, and being an elder person went a little bossy on me. His response made me feel bad and embarrassed. But the end product was remarkable – “the sin got exposed & till date it was the last tender for him from that particular NPO board.”

A little courage, to be honest, keeps us guilt-free and is strong enough to expose the sin.

HONESTY IS NOT ALWAYS THE BEST POLICY

Well, we have been taught since our childhood that we should be honest. However, as kids in school – nobody really tells us that being honest also has its consequences which are not always in your favour.

Something similar happened to Sharda when she tried to be honest at her workplace. She was working for an organization for 10+ years and she had learnt a lot from there. She had joined it as a fresher and managed to grow to a much higher position. Since the last couple of years, she had started to feel stagnant and wanted to move out. But no such brilliant offers were coming up.

She had realized that the atmosphere of her team had been deteriorating for quite some time especially since her new manager had joined a couple of years back. He was not only incompetent but also favoured the wrong people. This was causing a lot of politics at the workplace. She initially did not bother about it. She believed that if she continued to perform at her work, she could stay away from this politics. But she was wrong.

As she continued over the last 2 years, things were only getting worse. She finally got an offer from another organization which she readily accepted. But before leaving she went ahead and reported to HR, all that was happening to her team. Not only that, she even reported these things to the head of the business when she was asked the reason for resigning. The favouritism, gender discrimination, blame games, personal comments and everything that had bothered her in lately.

She expected action to be taken. But in the 3 months of her notice period, she saw no change at all, in fact, some of her team members turned hostile towards her. She left this job and joined a better organization and a better team.

One of her ex-team members called her one evening and told her that her superiors in the previous organization had defamed her a lot. She was incorrectly being blamed a lot for all the wrongs that had happened in the department. And that was all because her concerns were not handled in the right way.

Sharda was far away from that hostile environment but it still impacted her. She had been wronged.

This is a very common scenario especially at the workplace wherein subordinates are forced to move on when they really cannot deal with the unfair situations at work. Their honest opinions are used against them and power of position often wins.

___________________________________________________________________________________

A few years back, I had to face a similar situation at the workplace. It wasn’t as bad as what Sharda faced. I had issues with the way our Department Head was managing our team. He was always micro-managing and had no trust in the team. As the team lead, I was finding it difficult to keep him away so that my team could have space to work the way we wanted.

My immediate manager however understood the situation really well and was very well on our side. I was asked for my honest opinion and blurted out all my frustration in front of her. It was very clear to her that I saw our Department Head as the major and only issue in that team.

My manager was a genuine person and she once said – “You are not scared to call a spade a spade and that is really good.”

She genuinely appreciated my honesty and handled the situation for me. It was a huge risk that I had taken. The situation could have very easily turned against me but I was lucky to have the right person as a Manager to whom I could confide in. The moral of the story is – Don’t always give your honest opinion. Sometimes people just ask you for your opinion because they want to play against you. It doesn’t work. Honesty is the best policy only when honesty is used with the right trustworthy person.

HONESTY CAN STAND ONLY ON THE PEDESTAL OF COURAGE

The question put to me today is ‘Do I have the courage to be honest?”

Oh not at all! I am the wrong person to kick start the week about ‘courage to be honest’. See, the thing is that I from my very childhood have been a people pleaser. I mean it mattered a lot to me to what others think about me. I have gone to great lengths to avoid conflict, to not rock the boat. Overlooked a lot many things to avoid argument. 

But over the years I have realized that going along with other’s plans even when we don’t agree with it usually back fires on us. Keeping quite at the start to avoid a conflict eventually leads us into a bigger mess.

For a long time, I have been part of the cultural committee which plans all big celebrations in our society. There have been times when a deco idea or dance idea doesn’t feel right but we still go ahead with it because the person who is suggesting it is very enthusiastic and we don’t want to break their heart. But then eventually when on the D Day there is a debacle or things don’t work out the whole team is blamed, we all become the fall guys. At that moment I realized that its better to be brutally honest right at the start.

Imagine you are in a meeting and your boss suggests an idea. You think it’s an absolutely bogus idea. Do you have the guts to say that to your boss? I have gone along with ideas suggested by my seniors or super seniors which I didn’t really like. And the end result is that if things don’t work out it’s the team which takes the beating and the senior gets away scot free. Why? Because we agreed with it. 

So in my personal opinion in the long run its better to be honest and tell the person why we thing that what he or she is suggesting wont work. I still don’t do it with brutal honesty. I put it forward with a little diplomacy but hey… I am trying…

What happens if your being honest could have an adverse effect on you or your work? Do you still have the courage to be honest? 

Here I will give you an example of my husband. He owns a start up company. Now imagine the scenario. Their company really needed a certification from a government organization. He applied for it and after the due process he was called to the office to collect the letter. The guy in charge said the letter is ready you may take it and also hinted that he was excepting an X amount as bribe… The bribe amount was not very huge and the value of that letter to the company was much greater. My hubby returned the letter to him and said that he will not pay a single paisa and walked out of the room. I can only imagine the dumbfounded expressions on the officer’s face. Not that’s courage to be honest. He put a lot of future contracts in line by refusing to pay but he didn’t regret it.

Eventually that courage paid off, our company did get that letter eventually and we benefitted from that also.

So I guess being honest and pointing out something wrong does feel like a negative thing to do at that time but in the long run it is better for our own sanity, our work and our relationships. And I feel when it comes to honesty, courage is required by both the teller and the listener.

HIS AGAPE LOVE FOR YOU AND ME

Agape is a word that is not commonly used by people. The English word agape means, ‘ajar’, ‘open’, ‘amazed’ etc., but the Greek word agapē means, the unconditional love of God for humankind. And this Agape love is mentioned only in the Bible explaining how God has been displaying His love for mankind from the beginning till now.

If we look at ourselves, we find how intelligent and supreme we are from all other animals and all the creations as a whole. The Bible says we were created in God’s image as He formed us from the dust whereas He created all others just by His commands and words.

Doesn’t it show His special love and purpose behind creating us?

Apart from that in human history, we all know, how God has been a God of provision, sustenance and protection. He has always been faithful to control the cosmos, the seasons, the environment etc., all because of His love for us. He never abandons any provisions from anyone despite our deformities and iniquities.

Just imagine if one day, God calls me from heaven and says, “Chiradeep, you have been so wicked for last one month, so as a punishment, sunlight will be suspended for you over a period of one week.” And I will be in darkness for the next seven days. But the good news is He has never done like that to me or to any human-like me though we have always been taken Him and His goodness for granted. His love has always been unconditional whether we obey Him or follow His instructions. The only time we suffer when we go against His set system which He had set for the whole creation to run around it.

But the agape love of God manifested only in the context of Jesus’s coming to the world and dying for the whole of humankind. I agree it is not easy to understand or grasp. As a young boy, I had this quest in my mind which remained and unanswered and unresolved for many years. The quest was – “Why on earth Jesus had to take birth and die if He was God. If He simply uses His might and authority everything will come into order… Then why this drama of such a painful death came into the scene in the first place?” My logical young mind couldn’t find any satisfying explanation for this question.

This question never left me till I entered adulthood leaving behind my teenage years. This burden weighed me down till one of my teachers enlightened me about The Truth through a few truths from the eternal scripture.

I remember, he asked me to name God’s attributes according to my generalized idea of God. As always, I was prompt to respond by giving a list of attributes that seemed appropriate to me – God is Holy, Righteous, Just, Kind, Good, Love etc…

He smiled and started to explain all the attributes of God that I had mentioned to him. As he went on illuminating my mind, I began to analyse them one after the other. This eventually addressed my quest and I could feel a calmness in my whole being.

Let me share about it in details….

If we read the Bible, we will find God’s these attributes are mentioned numerous times but for this article, I am quoting a few of them only –

 God is Holy: “For I am the Lord your God. You must consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy.

God is Righteous: “The Lord is righteous in everything he does; he is filled with kindness.”

God is Just: “The Lord is known for his justice. The wicked are trapped by their own deeds.

God’s holiness, righteousness and justice debar any relationship or connection between Him with the unholy, unrighteous and unjust ones.

Humanly even if we are corrupted, we will never want to be identified with corruption in any manner. So, when it comes to God, who is holy, righteous and just, it is impossible to think that He can easily mingle with us.

Mankind sinned against God and had fallen short of the glory of God and became unholy, unrighteous and unjust – “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.

All the above-mentioned attributes of God declare that man cannot come to the presence of God. General understanding says that the consequence of any wrongdoing is punishment. So, men have to be punished. And the punishment is “DEATH” – “For the wages of sin is death…”.

That day when I was eagerly and desperately waiting for my teacher to help me understand my long-borne quest, he dramatically paused there and looked at me while I was amazed at his logical and Biblically proved explanations about the way God deals with His created humans.

He started speaking again about one last attribute of God with a confident smile on his face.

God is LOVE (includes kindness and goodness): The Bible says,

“So, God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God, He created them; male and female he created them.”

For this is how God loved the world: He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

The Bible

God’s love ensures and reflects God’s heart – “I created these men and women in my own image, how can I punish them! I will save them from this eternal death. I will make them righteous, just and holy. I will give then eternal life”.

And thus, they can ultimately come to the presence of a Holy, Righteous and Just God.

God can’t die being God and being a Spirit. So, He had to take the form of Jesus – the human form of God with flesh and blood so that He can die substituting the whole human race, saving them from the wages of sin.

While dying on that cross, God showcased all His attributes together not even abandoning one. This was the reason why He had to die for you, me and for all others in this world.

Friends! In my life of pain and suffering, I have known God’s agape love for me all the time. It is possible only when we give in to Him. In closing, I can only say, “Taste and see that the Lord is good”. Tasting and Visualising are two of the sensory perceptions that supersede the other sensory perceptions when it comes to authenticating God’s goodness and unconditional love in one’s own life.

Stay Blessed!

FRIENDS – A GIFT TO OURSELVES

Throughout our lives, we have different relationships with different people. Most of the relationships we have are by virtue of being born at a certain time in a certain family. Our parents, our siblings, our uncles, aunts, cousins, grandparents etc. 

Then there is another set of relationships we have by law. If yours was a love marriage at least you chose your spouse, if you were in an arranged marriage even your spouse was chosen for you. Either way, the in-law’s family that you get is by virtue of being married to a certain person.

I am not complaining, we love our families fiercely. But there is one relationship which you choose and form. It grows on you. And it becomes a very important part of your life. That is friendship.

We start forming friends at a very early age. Maybe you are still in touch with your kindergarten friend. And all along we make a lot of friends. Some are left behind in the race of life and with some, the bond becomes stronger. So, for all of us, we have a few friends or at least one such friend whom we can call a true friend.


That my dear is a gift we have given to ourselves.

Growing up my parents have always been exasperated with the number of friends I had. There was this gang of school friends, the colony friends, the college friends, the computer classes friends, the tuition friends and the list goes on and on. I have loved to be surrounded by good friends. 

But now so many years later I cherish a close group of friends. Whom I love dearly and can go to any lengths to support. And I am sure they will do so too. 

You know what the best part of a good friendship is? There is no pretence. There is no need to put up a façade. I mean if it is your school/college friend they have grown up with you and know all the goof-ups you did as a kid. My close friend was there with me when my teacher punished me, or when I clumsily fell in the canteen, or when we made Maggi together and ate like it was the last packet on earth or she was there when we made lofty plans for our future which never materialized. My friend knows me so thoroughly that I don’t have to pretend in front of her. She understands me.

Then there are the friends I made as an adult when life had started showing its true colours. When life has become so hectic that we carry loads of tensions and stress on our heads. Meeting these friends and just talking or you may call it gossiping can relieve so much of my stress. I love these gossip friends with whom I can let my hair down and discuss just any topic under the sky and not be judged for it.

Also, there are friends who guide you when you need it the most. They coax, cajole and also at times be blunt but they help you give your best to the given task. The “friend, philosopher and guide” kind or friends are too precious as we can turn to them and trust them when our own judgement is compromised.

Finally, my closest circle of friends whom I can call the 3 a.m. friends. I know even if in the middle of the night I give them an SOS call they will drop everything and will be there with me to stand through thick and thin. I know I have a family for such times also but sometimes reaching out to friends is easier than reaching out to the family.

I just cherish and love the friends I have in my life and thank them for being a part of my life. Friends are the gift I have given to myself. When everything in life gets too much to handle, I turn to my friends and they bring me back to track.