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Givers and Takers

Dr Jyotsna Bhattacharjee

I think that the greatest mistake we might make is in thinking that we can change the nature of a person, whose mannerisms we may not like. We often try to do that. Yet the person whom we try to change may not submit to our incessant nagging. It may bring the opposite result. The person may be stiff-necked enough to toe the line of another’s making. It also sometimes leads to unpleasantness and suffering. And how can we say that we are right in our behaviour? Perhaps our mannerisms are also disliked by somebody else. Shall we submit meekly to another’s diktat? Then how can we expect others to do that?
I suppose none of us try to correct our mistakes, as we think ourselves to be perfect. In our own assessment we are always right and have no fault. Yet a little introspection may tell us how wrong we are. Every one of us has some fault. We are finite and imperfect human beings. So it is only natural that we make various mistakes. But due to arrogance we never admit that we have as many faults as another has. We never admit our own faults, though we are quick to condemn another for any little fault he/she may have. We have to realize that no human being is perfect. Everyone has some fault, major or minor. So unless it is something grave we may ignore it. People have their own unique way of behaviour, some of which we may not approve. But we too may have some faults which others may not approve. Hence though we may not like somebody’s foibles, we should not try to change the peculiarities of the person concerned. After all, they are minor faults. I think it is much better to find out our own faults and try to correct ourselves. Self-criticism is the best method to correct ourselves to make us better human beings. Unfortunately very few of us recognize our own faults.
This kind of thought of changing another person’s nature and habits is much in evidence in case of newly married couple. I believe that it is a grave mistake on the part of one contemplating marriage to think that he or she can reform his or her partner after they get married. They probably know each other’s weak points, but think that it will be different after they got married, since the weak points will have to be eliminated. But the chances are that he or she will remain the same. One should never think that the person can be changed, because it is just not possible. Many a woman find at odds with her husband for some of his peculiarities which she may dislike. Conversely a husband may dislike something which his wife does. To make a happy home they have to accept each other’s idiosyncrasies.
The idea of changing a person’s habits often leads to needless controversies, sometimes even to bitter quarrels ad excessive suffering. Our fault is that we are too aware of other people’s defects without ever trying to find out if we have faults as well. Our conviction seems to be that we are faultless. But a little bit of introspection would clearly bring out our faults into open. So many heartaches could have been avoided if only we had accepted the truth that none in the world is perfect. I have as many faults as the next person. I may dislike another person’s behaviour and he or she may dislike mine. If we can take an objective look at ourselves, we would realize how unpleasant some of our talks and behaviour might appear to another. Nagging or pestering does not help even the slightest bit. After all, who are we to criticize other people, unless their habits and behaviour affect us seriously? What right do we have to condemn another’s behaviour, if it does not have any harmful consequence? Half of the world’s quarrels arise, because we refuse to accept that we are not the least justified in trying to change other peoples’ ways simply because they are not our ways.
It is not really right to think that our ways are the best. Something may irritate us, but opposition merely leads to innumerable arguments and unpleasantness. We may also have some faulty manners, which could irritate others. If we dislike something in another person, the solution of the problem, I think, is to give the same loving tolerance to another, as we would like to given to us. We have to accept the simple truth that we all have some weakness ad it would be wiser on our part to deal with these little irritants with tact and understanding. Self-criticism is very necessary for all of us.
I believe that the best course of action to take in order to accept each other’s foibles is to take recourse to that excellent principle of “give and take”. There is no other alternative course of action. So many marriages end in disaster, simply because the marriage partner refuses to deviate even an inch from his or her point of view. It will be a terrible mistake on the part of one partner to imagine that the other one will toe the line chalked out by him or her. This kind of attitude brings nothing but quarrels and suffering. To keep peace and harmony at home, I think, some amount of appreciation is necessary. The lady of the house works hard at home and she needs some appreciation from the husband. Perhaps everybody needs appreciation for doing some job well. But some people lack the ability to bestow praise on others. I have noticed that men are less demonstrative than women. A man may recognize the hard labour of his wife in making a happy home for him and his family, but he may not be able to say it. It is not a fault, but it is just his nature.
I think that in life we must go through giving and taking. The givers and takers are mutually related. One should not be a giver or a taker all the way. To make a successful conjugal life both the husband and wife must give a little bit. They must not think that they will only take and not give. Many husbands take the wife for granted. She makes a happy home for him ad looks after his needs and sacrifices quite a lot for giving happiness to the husband and the children. Yet many of them have never had a good word to say about his wife’s good work. A little appreciation, one single flower might do wonders to her sagging spirit. Some people are born givers and some are born takers. The golden rule is to take the middle path. I think we should not only give, but also should cultivate the art of taking. I have a friend, who is a giver all the way. But she does not like to take anything from others. Strangely enough, In spite of being a very kind and generous person, she never realizes how much her attitude hurt her friends. Naturally they feel humiliated because of her refusal to accept what they give and it leads to lots of misunderstanding.
Only the other day one of her own friends told me in an injured voice, “What does she want to prove? Possibly she likes to demonstrate that she is lady bountiful. She has given me many things despite my protests. Naturally I cannot go on taking gifts from another. Yet when I went to give her a gift she refused to accept it. She perhaps thinks that she is a great lady and we are inferior to her. Her refusal to accept my gift really hurt me. I am not going to take anything from her in future”. I think that the lady is too generous to think of anybody as her inferior. I have noticed that she treats everybody in the same way. But probably she has not realized that taking a gift gracefully is as important as giving.
I believe that to lead a happy life the attitude of “give and take” is absolutely necessary. There are some people, who bear grudge against others for any little thing. Recently I heard about a feud between two neighbours, which arose because one of them had moved his boundary wall two inches into the other’s territory. They went to the law and spent thousands of rupees to settle the dispute, which could have been settled amicably in the shortest possible time without any hassles, if only they had adopted the attitude of “give and take”. For happiness and peace of mind this kind of approach is essential.
If we take things in the proper perspective, we would be dismayed to find that adults can display such lack of common sense. But many of us lose our sense of proportion at certain times. We may be very sure that we have “right” on our side and so we just do not want to give in. But why not? I think that in the long run it is wiser to be on the losing side than to pursue the battle. Is it not an aweful waste of time to embark on a bitter and costly dispute just to prove that we were right? Of course if we suffered some serious injury or indignity due to some deliberate and malicious action of another then we have to fight back. But usually it is found that the longest and the bitterest grudges stem from some comparatively minor event. In this context we may mention our epic “Mahabharata” as a shining example of the importance of giving and taking.
The Kaurava prince Duryodhana wanted to take everything and refused to give even a inch of land to the Pandavas. The avaricious Duryodhana even cheated the Pandavas of their rightful Kingdom “Indraprastha”. As a result the great Battle of Kurkshetra was fought and it was a bitter struggle for power. According to the legend thousand of men were killed and many animals too lost their lives in the great battle. Finally the Pandavas won the battle, because the right was on their side. But it was a hollow victory, as the winners were also not happy, since they had lost many of their relatives. Hence we can say that even in that ancient era the principle of “give and take” could have been of great use. If only the Kauravas had done so, many tragedies could have been averted.
Leaving aside the epic era we may concentrate on the present. Any quarrel can be sorted out with a little bit of giving and taking. And if it demands more “give” than “take”, so what? I honestly think that even if we feel that we have a real cause to bear a grudge, we should first think whether it is worth fretting and losing friends on that account. What is the use of feeding bitterness and hate? It is an unprofitable way to live and there are better things to do with our lives.
We often forget that we have come to the world on a temporary basis. Every person knows that birth and death are inseparable facts of life we have to realize that nothing is permanent and it is no use bearing a grudge against anybody. In the Bhagavad Gita Lord Sri Krishna says that anger is one of the doors to hell. I anger we say certain things which should not have been said. Afterwards we may fall into bouts of remorse for our misbehavior. But what has been said cannot be undone. Hence we should be very careful and should think calmly before we say or do something, which may hurt somebody.
Human nature is such that we never think ourselves to be wrong, but are quick to find faults in others. Introspection is very necessary to find true facts about one self. We have to admit our faults before condemning another. Philosophy states that no human being is perfect. Only the Absolute is the perfect being. Human beings are finite and hence limited. Naturally every person has some fault, including ourselves. It will be much wiser to correct ourselves before pointing accusing finger at others. We cannot take everything without giving any. Such an attitude will bring only heartache and agony. We have to discard our fault-finding nature. I think it would bring happiness, if we concentrate on the good points in another, ignoring the bad ones. One cannot be thoroughly bad, because good and bad go together and we have to accept it. We may be surprised to discover many good qualities in a person whom we wrongly condemned as a bad person. We have to take humanity in its essence and not at its face value. I think that if we learn to give and take generously and peacefully, our life would be much happier and more rewarding. It is worth giving a try.