Sunday, May 17, 2009

Weighed down by obligations

Every once in a while, we are all faced with a dilemma of choosing between doing what's right or what is popular. On the face of it, it is a simple question. And of course, doing the right thing is the obvious answer. But sometimes, it's not as easy as it sounds.

If, as in most situations, the right thing to do is also the popular sentiment, the choice is easy. A true test of our character is when the right choice is definitely not the popular thing to do. For an individual who always sticks to his principles, this is not a hard decision. He or she would do the right thing, not being unduly worried about the consequences and let the chips fall as they may. Sometimes, sensible and mature people will knowingly choose the popular path, even though its not on the "right" side of life. And this is generally because of the weight of obligations and social pressures, which can make even a thoroughly steadfast person falter. But always remember that relationships based on obligations lack dignity.

So how much obligation should a person take? Socrates, the Greek philosopher, credited with pioneering thoughts about values and morals of modern society, had an interesting take on that issue. He said-- "Only take an obligation if you know you can (and will) repay it one day soon. The more obligations you owe, more twisted are your morals, ethics and principles." I guess what he's saying is we should try to keep our backbone to ourselves and not lend it to people to whom we owe favors!

Favors come in different shapes and sizes. Some genuine and some with ulterior motives. The latter mostly in the form that satisfies our materialistic desires. So I assume that if our materialistic desires are less, we really would not need favors, would we? Let me end with another quote that should give us some food for thought--

"I hold that to need nothing is divine, and the less a man needs, the nearer does he approach divinity." ~ Socrates