Thursday, August 24, 2017

What Will People Think?

When we are little kids, I think the idea of “what will my parents think” helps to shape and guide our moral compass a little bit. It helps to keep us out of trouble and decide between what’s good and bad. When we get older though, I think “what will people think” becomes a problem. It’s not necessarily based on what is just, right, moral, true. Rather, it’s based on the pressures of culture and society. For example, if you keep your hair and you live in a community where most people don’t, you could say “what will people think” and get rid of your kes. You could get rid of your whole Sikh identity over the pressures of other people. Instead of using our own brains to decide what's right or true, we rely on public opinion. People’s opinions will vary and sometimes no choice you make is going to save you from gossip and judgement. "Oh she stayed home with her kids!" "Oh she went back to work and didn't stay home with her kids!"

Especially around stigmatized topics like mental health, drugs, domestic violence, etc. there is a lot of “what will other people say? What will they think?” Rather than even focusing on solving problems sometimes, it’s about covering them up so that other people won’t know. Living your life by what other people think is like a jail. It ties us down from being free, true to ourselves. More and more life becomes about appearances and less about what’s inside. People will talk and nitpick, but that’s their problem, not ours. For those of us who have read Gurbani, we know that it’s not right to slander and gossip about people.

I recently watched the movie Rabb Da Radio. (Spoiler alert if you haven’t seen it.) The main character has to decide between telling the truth and being kicked out of her in-laws home (this was set in the 70s so there was nowhere for her to go if she was kicked out) or to maintain a lie about the reputation of her sister-in-law and get to stay with her husband/in-laws family. I think the inner struggle of this character was very relatable. If we apply our current topic, anyone who thinks “what will people think” would have lied because her reputation would be ruined by being kicked out of her in-laws house and she would have had to beg on the streets. The movie was about our conscience, about our relationship with God, about faith in doing the right thing, and using that as our moral compass rather than what other people think. Even the sister-in-law's fiance doesn't accuse her or question her behaviour based on public opinion. I think it was a powerful message in using our own hearts to guide us. 

I think this issue is a matter of balance. If we didn't care what anyone thought we wouldn't follow laws. There would be disorder. But we can't overly care either. I think we should move on from “what will people think” to what would God think? What is just and right according to Sikhi. What does Guru Ji tell us? What is my conscience, which is connected to God, telling me? 

No comments:

Post a Comment