Pretence and Hypocrisy
Perhaps everyone has come across in his social surroundings persons who chum up with everybody, but their only goal is to attract others' attention to themselves, although their hearts are devoid of any fraternal feeling. They hide their real face under the mask of friendship and take resort in flattery and affected geniality. As and when required by circumstances, they consider their pretence to genuineness a means of achieving their social ends, and that is their trade. This hidden tendency overshadows their entire character, conduct, and mind. They forget that a real personal merit is a thousand times or incomparably more precious than others' opinion about oneself. When one observes such people, striving hard single-mindedly in pursuit of their selfish ends instead of responding to the call of their own conscience, one realises to what extent they are victims of their exhibitionist urges.
Others' opinion is not so significant as to be allowed to influence one's happiness. Of course, the opinions and feelings of other people are to be respected to a certain extent, but the source of one's happiness lies within oneself, not in what others may think of one. Otherwise if one were to become used to the habit of looking at oneself from the eyes of others, he would become a hapless captive of other people's ideas, losing one's freedom and independence.
Moreover, the judgements that people make concerning one another are mostly inspired by their personal interests and prejudices, and they change with conditions and circumstances. The value of such judgements would be realised when we keep this point in our view. ' Hence if one chooses a correct path in life that is not regarded by others with approval, one should not be pained by their futile critical remarks.
Imam 'Ali, the Commander of the Faithful, may Peace be upon him, said:
Don't be grieved by the remarks that people may make about you, because if what they say is true, you will have been retributed for your misconduct in this world itself [instead of the Hereafter] and if what they say is untrue, it is a reward that you got without having worked for it. 26
Bertrand Russell says:
Fear of public opinion, like every other form of fear, is oppressive and stunts growth It is difficult to achieve any kind of greatness while a fear of this kind remains strong, and it is impossible to acquire that freedom of spirit in which true happiness consists, for it is essential to happiness that our way of living should spring from our own deep impulses and not from the accidental tastes and desires of those who happen to be our neighbours, or even our relations. 27
William John Reilly, an American writer, says in this regard:
There is no one more lacking in personality and content than the self- seeking people who are inert and impassive They are always curious as to what other people think of them, and therefore are ever after something that may be regarded by others with approval
This sort of persons actually sacrifice their personality and will to the collective prejudices of others if you allow yourself to be influenced by others beyond measure, you will never find the courage to accomplish anything, and will not succeed in life
Of course, this does not mean that one should totally ignore the useful and well-meaning suggestions of others and not put them to use. However, that which is to be remembered is that one should accept and act upon only those suggestions which one believes to be more worthwhile and useful and those which offer a more complete and sound solution
If you follow the prejudice and personal preferences of others you will be confronted with a social quandary and personal misfortune On the other hand, if you are steadfast in regard to your ideas that you believe to be useful, you will feel relaxed, strong, independent, and self-assured. The futile pursuit of others' prejudices and judgements will mar whatever significant inspiration and valuable idea that you may have, divesting you totally of your personal liberty, independence, and personality, and you will never be able to be your own self. If you give up your freedom of thought, you will lose everything.
The state, circumstances and beliefs of people are changeable and conflicting in societies The more you strive to achieve general approval, the lesser results will you obtain, and the lesser attention you pay to it and avoid submitting to it, the more it will incline towards you The world, by nature, admires men who have the courage to decide for themselves and have a strong determination. 28
26. Al-Amidi, Ghurar al-hikam, p. 820.
27. Bertrand Russell, The Conquest of Happiness (London: Unwin Books 1975), p. 106.
28. William John Reilly, Twelve Rules of or Straight Thinking, Persian trans. Taf akkur-e sahih, p. 122.
Adapted from: "Ethics and Spiritual Growth" by: "Sayyid Mujtaba Musawi Lari"
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