The Unwritten Social Rules

A friend of mine (also suffering from a mental ailment) approached me for some advice. I am writing this article based on his predicament which I think will be quite common even amongst people of sound mind.

My friend offered the following diagnosis of his situation:

  1. He had behaved very badly when he was young
  2. Because of that he has earned a reputation that has not changed even though many years have passed.
  3. He was (and maybe still is) slandered by society
  4. He was perceived as a needy person as he was a dependent and lacked company and a social circle
  5. He was perceived as a devious and cunning person so people were avoiding him for that reason

I will not take the name of this friend for obvious reasons. But he has agreed to my request that I can write a blog article on this topic.

My response was based on my own experience of having seen the world. These are insights that may seem very simple and obvious but it literally took me decades to learn them. And don’t underestimate their importance. Absorbing these lessons will – at the very least – keep you away from the mischief that people who dislike you can do to you. And you will free time and energy that you can use to build a new social circle. In today’s world of social media and the internet getting to know people who don’t mind your company should not be difficult.

My response to him was as under:

  1. My friend had been taught – since he was young – that if someone dislikes him he should make all efforts to find out the reasons and mend fences. This was something that he had accepted unthinkingly and he was agonising over what he was doing wrong and imposing his company on people who did not want him around.
  2. This – I told him – was a completely mistaken approach. If a person slanders you or otherwise treats you badly it means that he does not want your company. Avoid such people – I told him – and do not accept their hospitality. If you overstay your welcome as a guest then the results are not pleasant in Indian society (and elsewhere also I suppose)
  3. The second point I made was that he should (as much as possible) follow this teaching of the Buddha: Be an island unto yourself. This means be self sufficient and meet your own needs as much as you can – be it financial, social or others. Don’t be a dependent and try to be happy with your own company as much as possible. I remember a dialogue from the movie Expendables in which Sylvestor Stallone advises Jason Statham that he would get better results in his relationships with women if he did not need them (that is women). Its ok to like and want people in your life but not to be unable to do without them. In a nutshell – Don’t be needy.
  4. The fourth point is don’t be a dependent. I have covered this in point (3) above but it is of such importance that I need to stress on it. It is important enough to find mention in the scriptures. The Bhagavad Gita mentions this point. Krishna exhorts Arjun to fight because the life of a dependent (if Arjun does not fight) is unworthy of him
  5. Also people are by nature selfish and will give you importance if they have a use for you. My friend obviously was not serving a purpose from the utility point of view. So try not to take things personally.
  6. As to being devious and cunning (I told my friend) – so am I. So is almost everybody. This reason is just an excuse that is used by people who dislike you to avoid you. If people have a use for you they will more than welcome your company despite this flaw. I reminded my friend of the story of Hanuman who (at the end of the Ramayana) was advised by the gods that the age of Kalyug was on hand and he would not be able to survive in the changed circumstances. If the Monkey God Hanuman (and he was a god) will be unable to survive in Kalyug then what chance do ordinary mortals have. Better to accept yourself and others as you are and not be judgmental.

Now spiritual books will tell you to love your enemy. The Bible says so. But that teaching is to be followed by people who take spirituality seriously. As Jesus himself said: For many are called but few are chosen. Out of the entire human race many are called so most are not even called, many are called and few are chosen. It is up to you to figure our whether you have a calling towards spirituality. But for the average person it is enough if they refrain from harming people who dislike them. Loving your enemy is too difficult a teaching.

At the end of this somewhat long article I would advice people to read the self help classic – How to win friends and influence people by Dale Carnegie. It is excellent.

I hope to be able to follow these teachings myself. It is easy to give advice but not to practice it.

I’ll end here. Please explore this blog for more articles and let me have your comments. Feedback from my readers keeps me going.

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