In my experience, this is one of the most common dilemma for most of us, especially ‘thinkers’. Thinkers, who have developed an understanding and sense of their personal ‘self’; have formed a personal belief system independent of the society; however, do understand that we are part of the society; yet, are not ready to follow or succumb to the definitions set by the society.
However, even if someone has somehow slid through this dilemma without finding any answers, but when it comes to our children, about guiding them with their choices, we cannot continue the unaware slide and are forced to look for the answers…
Yet, in most of the cases, the suffering rebel in us guides our decision, we choose against the choice we were made to make as children, by our parents. So, for someone who despite being an independent thinker has lived his life following the norms/rules/limitations of society, without agreeing on them completely, would often end up guiding his/her child to follow one own self. Whereas, someone who lived life on personal terms but as an outcast to the society because of non-acceptance to his/her ideas by the society, would most likely end up giving a contrary advise to his/ her children.
Thus, essentially there are two approaches that are mostly followed by the adults engaged in mentoring the children. Either, we guide them to follow their self, or, to follow the principles, rules and boundaries set by the society at large.
This leads us to a fundamental question here,
‘Is it possible to have an existence completely outside of the society?’
In my personal opinion, NO!
We humans are social animals, and all our actions or even thoughts are somehow, in one way or another, influenced by others. There are no isolated thoughts or actions, so in that sense there is no such thing as ‘self’ existing in complete abandonment of the world.
Here, am not debating our innate inner ‘SELF’, self that guides us from within, helps us make choices and critical decisions, logical as well as intuitive… but emphasizing that all our actions even the one’s originated at the level of innate self, manifest externally only in relation to society.
Thus, none of the approach is actually true to the overall situation.
Neither, is it possible that one could be following self, exclusive of society with no influence of one’s actions on the society. Nor, is it possible for a thinking mind to be only driven by society, uninfluenced by the personal choices.
Which means that both these approaches are not comprehensive in themselves, and probably would only function best in unison, whereby completing and complimenting each other.
Balancing two opposing forces has always been a challenge, and probably is the core reason for this dilemma of ‘Self vs Society’.
This reminds me of a quote from an unknown source, I read somewhere,
“Follow your heart. Absolutely nothing else matters. As long as you are not hurting anyone, do whatever the hell you need to do to give yourself the life you want.”
Very simply yet profoundly, the author has said it all… by balancing out the roles of self and society in the best interest of both the ‘doer’ and the society. The author, while allowing the absolute freedom to the ‘doer’ to choose and do whatever is desired, has at the same time kept the society and the interests of its members at the equal priority.
Following self, whether it’s the intuitive self or the thought through logical self, gives a meaning to the ‘doer’. It provides a personal sense of motivation while chasing the desired and thereby, a sense of achievement to keep the fire alive for any further actions to take place subsequently. But, if it is done in isolation of the self-interest only, chances are that the doer might lose the sight of any other vested interests of others, which might be getting tempered by the very action.
Whereas, any action if is only driven by an external force would maybe reach its conclusion by satisfying all the external forces but would fail to ignite the ‘doer’ with any form of satisfaction.
Thus, where it is critically important that the children must be mentored to follow their own inner self, their intuition, their personal decisions, their heart…, it is all the more important that they made to watch the widespread influence of the consequences of each of their actions. Consequences on not just the ‘doer’ or the immediate ‘receiver’ of the action but also on others, which might not even be present at the time of an action. These others, could or could not be, connected to the ‘doer’ or ‘receiver’ but still could be prone to effect and influence of the action itself.
So, we as adults to train our children on this process of reflecting upon our desired actions, have a tremendous responsibility to not only actually doing the same ourselves, but also to do it verbally for our children to hear it out, loud and clear. Children learn from the example we set for them, from our actual behaviour and actions. Thus, how we reflect on our actions, even the actions which may seem trivial, would help us set a pattern of self-reflection in us as well as in our children.
Given below are five basic questions which can be used by us to self- reflect our actions, before actually taking these actions –
- How my action would affect me?
- How my action would effect this other person(s), directly involved in my action?
- How my action would affect others, who are related to me?
- How my action would affect others, who are related to this other person(s), directly involved in my action?
- How my action would affect all others unrelated to either of us, but in the influence circle of my action?
Only when a child is made to understand and experience this process of reflecting upon self-actions, before taking an action, chances are that the child would be conscious of each of his/her action, for its immediate and subsequent consequences and their prolonged influences and effects. Only then the child is able to pre-think about his/her action not just for self but for all those constituting the society for this action.
Then and only then, we the adults responsible to guide and mentor our children towards the righteous direction could say that our action towards this child has been completely unbiased of us and is righteous towards all it might impact in near or farther future. Only then, we can be sure that this child fundamentally has been prepared to stay connected to his/her humane quality, would always be conscious of his/her actions, and in all likelihood, would never be consciously involved in harming or hurting anyone.
– Article by Sangeeta A. Khurana, Co-founder and Director, THOTS.
– This article is inspired from a personal one on one conversation by the author with an evolved Buddhist master.