A couple came to us wondering how they can separate while ensuring that their children are not affected. I shared how my friend and his wife worked out a win-win arrangement, based on my advice, that has helped them both immensely. On this Podcast, I talk about how it is possible for a couple to set aside their differences if they choose to keep their children at the centre of their Universe. Any fight that is ego-driven is not worth it. Focus instead on a “working arrangement” when the relating between two people goes out the window.
Listen time: 5:31 minutes
When there’s no one to be touched, you will never be feel hurt, insulted or betrayed!
I am intently following L’Affaire Mistry @ Tata. Every time Cyrus Mistry retorts through the media, I can feel his pain. Vaani and I know what it means to be dropped high and dry, like a hot potato. About 11 years ago, the head of our Bengaluru operations migrated to a rival company en masse with our entire Bengaluru team. I took this purely business-related development personally. I was so hurt, I was suffering so much that I took a flight to Mumbai, barged into the office of the rival company, met its co-founders and demanded an explanation from them. While the conversation with them helped to the extent that I shared how I felt, as an entrepreneur, as a professional, as a human being, when I reflect upon it now, I realize it served so purpose by way of closure. It was just a knee-jerk emotional response from me. Perhaps banal I talk about this episode and how cathartic it was for me personally in my Book Fall Like A Rose Petal. bravado. Yes, of course, I learnt something from that experience – I learnt the power of forgiveness. I talk about this episode and how cathartic it was for me personally in my Book Fall Like A Rose Petal. I also learnt that you really must not expect fairplay from people and in Life. Because people do what they do because they think, and often also believe, that what they are doing is right. And Life never promised any fairplay nor does Life answer any questions.
I have realized that when you are hurt, offended, insulted or cheated by someone, you can let the hurt pass and ignore the whole happening or you can let the hurt pass and fight the issue or you can cling on to the hurt and also fight rabidly for what you believe is right. I have, since that episode in my Bengaluru office from 2005, learnt that letting the hurt pass and ignoring the whole episode is the best option. You may not want to agree with it. But this is what I prefer doing. If I must fight at all, I will prefer fighting the issue than invest my energies in avenging an insult.
If you reflect on Life, you will discover that whenever you feel hurt at what someone tells you, or does to you, it is your ego which is acting up. You question, often bitterly, why someone has behaved in a manner that you don’t endorse. Your ego instigates you to fight back, to avenge that behavior, instead of constructively confronting the issue. And then the drama begins. You tell the person something harsh. That person retaliates. Then you must say something in return. And on, and on, this game of ping-pong goes on. Or in situations when you are unable to retort or get even, you suffer within. You carry the injury, the wound from the hurt, all the while. Your ego keeps reminding you of how unfairly you have been treated. It sets you off on a journey of anger, self-pity and grief. And you let the wound fester there – causing you more pain, making you suffer more – and more!
But think of what can happen if you choose to ignore the insult. If you refuse to let it affect you. What if someone calls you an idiot and you just ignore that expression totally? Then there will be no hurt. And therefore no suffering. To reach this state all you need is to remember that each one is entitled to their thoughts, their opinions and their actions. If someone expresses his or her opinion, take it on board if it is worth it. If it will cause agony – drop it. Or rather don’t even catch it. Let the comment, barb, jibe, insult – or even an action, whatever, let it pass.
I am not judging the way Cyrus is handling his crisis, his catharsis. I only say that I can empathize with his sense of pain. Ultimately, to each one, their own. Your individual “Being Cyrus” or “Being AVIS” experience will help you onward to being you!
Even so, you are already on this evolutionary journey. And you can help yourself better by periodically checking out how well you are faring. Choose a 24-hour period and promise yourself that you will not react or retort to whatever may be said about you – no matter what the context is or what the provocation is. Notice that you will feel infinitely better without taking on board all the comments – about you – that come your way. Or without having to react to everything that is done to you.
This definitely works wonders when it comes to dealing with hurts, insults and motivated actions against you. But it also is a great way to stay grounded – especially when a lot of praise is heaped on you. If you let both insult and praise to pass, you will never be allowing your ego to be in the driver’s seat! When the ego is not driving you, you cannot be touched. Because then, as per Tao and the Empty Boat story, there’s no one to be touched!
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Forgiving someone for a transgression and yet being firm on the issue need not be mutually exclusive.
A young manager I know is in a quandary. His boss has been harassing him at work – to the extent that the young man went into depression. His colleagues advised him to report the boss’ behavior and to seek a new role within the organization. The manager got himself assigned to a new project within the company over some months but he has chosen not to complain about his ex-boss. Over coffee the other day he asked me if was right or wrong in a. forgiving his boss and moving on and b. not reporting his boss’ behavior to his company’s HR leadership on grounds of breaching an organizational value – ‘respect for the individual’. “I am not sure I can be forgiving and also report him,” he confessed.
As I have learnt from Life, you can – and often must – do both. There’s a warm and compassionate side to each of us. We are, by nature, willing to forgive people for their transgressions. But often times our softer side is viewed and interpreted as our weakness by people who trample upon our emotions or deny us our freedom or even basic, fundamental, human courtesies. In such situations, it is absolutely fine to stand up for yourself, look the someone who is bullying or harassing you in the eye, and say that you will not take this treatment anymore. Besides, in this particular manager’s story, it is important that his boss’ behavior is reported. Because it conflicts with an organizational value and if left unchecked it may cause serious emotional injury to other employees and also impair the organization’s culture.
Important, when you are forgiving someone, you are gifting yourself freedom from the trauma that following any pain that has been inflicted on you. Forgiveness frees you of suffering. But fighting for the injustice meted out to you in the first place, that’s issue-based. So if you choose to stay firm, and unrelenting, on not allowing such an issue to arise again, either to you, or to anyone in the future, there is no conflict whatsoever.
I have learned this from Swami Sathya Sai Baba: “In any relationship between two people, one may well be a cow and the other, a bull. There’s nothing wrong in being either. Each has a role to fulfil and each has something to offer the other. But at any time that the bull starts taking advantage of the cow’s benevolence, mistaking it for meekness, the cow will be well within its rights to assume the ‘avatar’ of the bull. In taking a stance, in your own interest, there is no right or wrong. Just be true to yourself – do what you believe must be done in any context. The cow need not perpetrate any acrimony, aggression or animosity. But the cow shouldn’t suffer any of these either.”
In essence, while to make a mistake is human, and to forgive such a mistake too is human, to suffer in silence and sorrow is both unjust and inhuman. It is the biggest hurdle to inner peace and joy. So, don’t confuse being compassionate and being firm. They need not be exclusive. Simply, no matter who it is, don’t let anyone take you for granted, trample upon your self-esteem, piss on you and pass you over. Remember: if you don’t stand up for yourself – chances are, perhaps, nobody else will!
If your inner peace is being ruined, ask yourself if a confrontation is really worth it?
A businessman I met yesterday said he was forever on tenterhooks. Because, he said, he is always fighting for ‘what is right’. He fights his brother’s reckless decisions in the business that they jointly operate, he is fighting for a parking space, that he legitimately owns, with his apartment builder, he is fighting for an Income Tax refund with the authority for over 10 years now and he is fighting within himself unable to reconcile to the surge of Hindutva and communal strife in the country. Phew! He asked me what he must do to be peaceful.
“Meditate.” This is what I told him.
But the last thing that will come easy, when you mind is agitated and firing on all cylinders, is meditation.
I have been the way this man is right now. So I know.
Our sense of morality, propriety, integrity and intention often wants us to demand a fair world. Besides, the human mind is wired, through years of conditioning, to point out to you that you are always right; that while everyone around you is either doing wrong or doing only what appears to be right, you, and you alone, are the messiah who is clamoring to do what is right. Any definition of right and wrong involves individual judgment and perception. What may be right to you may be wrong from another’s point of view. So, the moment you get into this ‘I-am-right’ mode, you have launched into an endless, zero-sum game! This is how, for many years, I vexed over trying to create a better world – for me, around me. I discovered, through catharsis, that there is nothing wrong with wanting an ethical, fair, egalitarian environment around you. Except that you mustn’t try to create it at the cost of losing your inner peace. Anything that demands a fight that disturbs your inner equilibrium is simply not worth it.
So, fight the good fight, take up causes, choose issues that you want to campaign for, but first win your inner battle. Nothing in the world, nothing in Life, is worth more than your inner peace. If you are at peace, you will have the energy to face the world, you will have stamina to last any crusade and you will have the focus to devise and execute a winning strategy.
Do what you must do in any situation but do it only if you can be detached from the outcomes. Invest in the process, but be detached from the outcomes. Often the biggest hurdle to an individual’s evolution is the desire to want to control outcomes, to prove oneself right and to hold on to opinions. Focusing on the merits of each experience is perhaps a good way to ascertain and convince yourself if such clinging on is really worth it. So, I always recommend a three-step check before you take up any issue that you want to invest your energy in:
- Will what you are fighting for really matter some years from now?
- What is best for all parties involved – letting go or proving yourself right?
- Which stance – letting go or clinging on – will help preserve your inner peace?
This approach has helped me immensely. I have come to realize that wanting a perfect world is not a wrong expectation. But you wanting to create this perfect world your way, well, that’s a stance you may want to rethink and, perhaps, even avoid. Instead, choose an intelligent approach, which is, decide on whatever you do, or want to do, basis your inner peace being first protected. So, ask yourself, each time before you launch into an ‘I-am-right’ mode, if it is really worth it?
You must fight the good fight if the process of fighting makes you peaceful. But if your inner peace is lost, then the cause, the raison d’etre – to fight – itself is lost.
I am often asked by readers or audiences on how we can differentiate between a good fight, a fight worth fighting for, and one that isn’t? This question often arises when I recommend a principle that I stand by – that the best way to win any battle is to not fight at all – or when I tell people to forgive and move on – even if they can’t forget – than cling on and suffer. Let me share my understanding here though, let me quickly clarify, choosing to fight an individual, situation or system is an intensely personal choice.
First, why do we fight anyone or anything? The idea of a fight arises only when you disagree with what’s happening to you – either with the way you are being treated by a person, by an establishment (a community, organization, society or even by a government or legal system) or by Life itself. So, essentially, you fight every time you see a lack of fairplay in an interaction, relationship or context. But just think about it – when did Life promise any fairplay? Life itself appears so grossly unfair when you weigh your intent, integrity and values against situations that you have to end up facing. So, when Life doesn’t guarantee any fairplay, where is the question of expecting it from humans, and from human-made contexts, systems and situations?
Even so, this doesn’t mean you must not raise your voice against acts that are inhuman or are against social interests. This doesn’t mean you must not want to or try to correct an action or system that urgently needs correction or fixing. Surely you must. But do whatever you must do, do whatever it takes, without agonizing, without suffering, without losing your inner peace. This is where the choice becomes very personal.
My close friend got into a litigious separation process with his wife some years ago. She is 16 years younger to him. They married after a breezy romance. But within a year, she separated from him and sued him for dowry harassment, impotency and domestic abuse. All this, because my friend confronted her with evidence of an affair she was having with a colleague at work. Given the women-friendly anti-dowry laws in India, the lady’s strategy was clear – harass my friend so that he grants her a divorce immediately and compensates her with a huge alimony that included a red Pajero! We advised our friend not to take the legal route. I encouraged him to settle out of court: “Just forgive her, don’t ruin your peace of mind, buy her the car and get out of this mess.” But my friend decided to fight her. In court. The process took over 8 years and it was hell – repeated impotency tests, dowry harassment charges against him and his aged parents having to be defended at every level from police stations to courtrooms, huge legal expenses and his inability to keep a job because the matter required 24×7 attention all through the years. Ultimately my friend won the case at the Delhi High Court. He was exonerated of all charges. And the lady apologized to him in court in return for being granted divorce. Now, all through the fight, through all this drama and humiliation, my friend remained stoic. He was always deadpan, unruffled. I never found him beaten or defeated. He anchored very, very well. Now, if you can deal with a fight with such clarity, such equanimity, then, it is perhaps worth it. But if you are going to suffer fighting, then you might as well not fight at all.
I too have the option to fight many fights. But I have chosen not to. For instance, there is so much corruption around us. Just take the state of the Chennai Airport. The contractors and the Airports Authority of India have a lot of explanation to do over its pathetic condition – falling glass panes, leaking ceiling, unsafe carousels and escalators. It has been rated as the worst airport in the world. Yet, no one has fixed any of these things in the last five years. Worse, no one has been held accountable for this shoddy piece of critical public infrastructure. I do feel like filing a public interest litigation demanding a court direction to the authorities to hold the people concerned liable. But between dealing with my existential crisis and public interest, I prefer preserving my inner peace for investing in resolving my own problem first. Or let me take another instance, of my need to be exonerated by my own family – I have been branded “a cheat” by them despite there being no evidence of my having frauded them at all. Now, this is a fight that I will never fight. Because I believe that if members of a family cannot trust one of their own, what is the point in making them realize their mistake? I have decided to let them live with their theory, and I have learnt to be accepting of my reality that I will never have their understanding all my Life. Important, I have forgiven them – even though I can’t forget the way in which I was treated – and I am at peace with myself and with them.
This is how I choose not to fight each time I am provoked – I go simply by wanting to preserve my inner peace. Because the only reward worth cherishing in Life is your inner peace! It doesn’t ever matter whatever else you have, or gain, if you have lost your inner peace!
So, to fight, to forgive, to move on is an intensely personal decision. The only way you can take that decision is to ask yourself what will make you peaceful. And go do what gives you peace. The key is to be at peace, to be happy with whatever is, even as you are making a sincere effort to change your current reality!
Fight only if you must. Sometimes, the best way to win a battle is not to fight at all.
Harsha Bhogle has been axed as commentator by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) from the IPL 9 Season. As is the case with most BCCI decisions, no reasons are forthcoming. Meanwhile, the rumor mills are working overtime to suggest that any of these three – or all – reasons may be valid: BCCI being ‘deeply influenced’ by innocuous (per me) Tweets by Amitabh Bachchan and M.S.Dhoni conveying their personal opinions on how commentators must commentate; Harsha’s run-in with a Vidarbha Cricket Association official in Nagpur over a common-sensical suggestion and how Shashank Manohar, the current BCCI President, stepped in and stood up for this official; or how players have begun to influence the BCCI on who should be chosen as commentators. But when news broke out on Saturday evening, when the first match of IPL 9 was being played between Mumbai Indians and Rising Pune Supergiants, that Harsha will not commentate, the man in the spotlight was off to watch a movie with his wife Anita in Mumbai. All he did was he tweeted his surprise at the turn of events.
I think this is a phenomenal quality that Harsha’s got – to not fight everything and everyone that comes in your way!
Though not among my personal favorites (L.Sivaramakrishnan and Danny Morrison are), Harsha is clearly a world-class cricket commentator. He’s worked hard to follow his bliss and he, deservedly, is very, very admired. Just the outpouring of sentiment in his favor, over his axing, is evidence of how much he’s loved. Yet, the landscape in which he plies his trade is fraught with BCCI’s mafia-like ‘control’ of the game and infested with intra-organizational, political landmines. And Harsha perhaps knows this better than anyone else. Hence his choice to not lose his dignity or sanity trying to stir an already confounded situation is commendable. Undoubtedly, the public – his fans and followers of the game – is with him.
There’s a learning here for all of us. When someone queers your pitch, just walk away. You don’t have to respond to every provocation or pick up every gauntlet that’s hurled at you. Some battles are best left unfought. People react to situations based on their own insecurities, perversions or justifications. Things happen in Life because that’s the way Life is – it keeps on happening, endlessly, often mindlessly. So, if you get embroiled in trying to bulldoze your way every single time someone or something becomes an obstacle, you will only be fighting inconsequential battles all your Life. Precious personal positive energy will get drained this way. Sometimes it is better to be silent and work around a problem person or situation than wanting to decimate an obstruction. Be stingy about where your energies go. Choose the good fight – where there’s a cause, where more than just you will be benefited, where there’s an opportunity that your victory can make the world better. For any other battle, not fighting is perhaps the best way to win!