Words Matter

WORDS matter. Words matter in how we talk about the two genders. What does “man up”, “grow some balls”, “don’t be a girl” convey? And both genders use these words. Not only does it show girls as weak, it also prejudices boys who don’t behave in a stereotypical way. If we call women as “bitches”, even for fun, how are we teaching young men and women that we should be respectful towards women? When we say someone is not a good mother because she has a career, why can’t we accept that someone might not want to be a mother, might not be good at motherhood, or just plain wants a career as much as a family? Children can learn a lot from a mother who can do both. Same thing with a man being a provider. If both genders deserve to earn equal pay for equal work, just a single gender should not be stereotyped as provider. If we want women to be high-paying executives, we should also accept that some men could be low-paying artists. Work that allows a person to support themselves should be respected, not who earns more. More importance should also be given to fatherhood, so that fathers, if they want, can spend more time with their children. No one ever asks if men want time off to spend time at home with family and kids. Equality is moving past stereotypes about both genders. Equality is respecting the individual, not prejudiced views based on their reproductive organs. And both genders are equally guilty of gender stereotyping. Men have to get past the traditional idea that they have the final word, and women must get past the idea that they are entitled to be provided for. Words matter when a man calls a woman “fat”, or a woman calls a man “short”. Words matter when we cannot look into the individual, but only how the situation or the person appears. Change can only come when we look into our attitude, and the words we use to describe each gender.

Why would anyone stay in an abusive relationship?

For a very long time I used to wonder why do abused women stay in an abusive relationship (of course both genders face abuse, but we mostly read about women). I used to think – if someone would treat you bad, logically you would cut off with that person. Why would anyone ever stay in a relationship that everyone else sees as abusive?

Abuse isn’t a straight forward mistreatment of someone. It is mixing love (or appearance of love) with control. The abused person is blamed for his/her hurt feelings, as if they deserved what is happening to them. The abuser flips the script where they abuse, but they blame the abused person for hurting them. Now the abused person thinks – ‘I am a good person. I didn’t mean to hurt him/her. But it must be my fault why these bad things are happening to me. Only if I try harder to please him/her, maybe it will stop.’ Soon it devolves into, ‘I am a bad person, that is why this is happening to me. This person claims to love me and claims I hurt him/her. I have to try even harder and prove that I don’t hurt him/her.’ And so the abused person stays, trying harder, working harder, doing anything to make things better. But nothing they do ever stops the abuse, because it was never their fault. It was always the abuser’s fault to maintain control. But a good person will always try to show that they aren’t bad when they are blamed for something they didn’t do. And that’s what someone in an abusive relationship does – they keep trying and trying to show they aren’t bad. With the false, toxic sense of love, the abuser breaks down their self-esteem till the abused person believes that he/she isn’t good nor worthy, and he/she must keep trying to please this person to feel a sense of worth. Why do they lose their self-esteem? Because they are constantly blamed for whatever the abuser is feeling. In the beginning the abused person might say that they didn’t do it. But over time they start believing the blaming and the accusations, that they must be responsible for whatever the abuser is feeling. And when they do what the abuser wants, they get a little bit of love which is like a dopamine shot to their brain. For a few days or weeks, they feel a sense of worth again. And it lasts till the abuser has a new need and the cycle starts again.
And abuse is one of the hidden curses of society. The abuser doesn’t look like a monster. They could be a smiling parent, spouse, or significant other. They could be highly respected members of society, or appear as good, normal people. The abused person might not appear like a miserable human being. They could your friend whom you think is a perfectly happy person. But what we see in public is always an appearance. Abusers are great at wearing a mask and showing a perfect side to the world. And deep down the abused know what is happening to them, and the shame of it makes them hide it even more. Abuse, be it sexual, psychological, emotional, or physical is the greatest harm to society – because it is hidden, because it self-perpetuates where the abused becomes the abuser, and because it rots the society from within where people live in fear, not happiness.
I finally got it, it is not the broken people who stay in an abusive relationship. It is good people who are broken down in a relationship with a person they absolutely trusted. A person they believed cared for their best interests or loved them. And in that belief, they do whatever they can to make that person happy. And that is abuse – power and control by one person, a desire to please and be considered good and be held blameless by the other person.

Faith is beautiful – Part I of Faith, Religion, and Me

Faith, now what does it mean? It is a confidence or a trust in something, or someone. Faith gives up hope, it gives us a reason to go on when we cannot see the future or an end. Faith doesn’t have to be in a deity but it could be anything – it could be in our own abilities, our friends and family, or just a positive thinking that if we keep trying something good might happen. One doesn’t have to be religious or even a theist to have faith, because everyone has faith in something. Some might even call faith as positive thinking or vibes, or a belief in hard work, due diligence, and its reward.

For a religious person, faith involves a deity/deities who might answer prayers or our performance of doctrinal rituals. We believe such a deity is looking over us for our well-being and we implicitly trust this deity to bring something good to us, even when bad things are happening to us. For an irreligious person, faith involves in trusting their own actions, abilities, efforts, or just the luck of probability.

Faith keeps us going in the darkest of times. It transcends the analytical mind because the logical brain deals with facts, not with hope. When a parent loses their child, it is faith that keeps them going that their child is in a better place. Try telling such a parent that their child’s life meant nothing and that it is now reduced to the dust of time. Faith gives many of us hope that our good actions will be rewarded, the injustice we face in this life might be rectified in an afterlife, or that we will once again be able to see our loved ones whom we have lost.

Similarly, an atheist or an agnostic might have faith that hard work is rewarded. A deity isn’t necessary to have faith. We can have faith in our fellow human beings and trust that they will be kind, compassionate, and just to us. We can have faith that our positive feelings would improve our outlook on life and cheer us up. Some term these positive feelings as prayers and put their faith in a guardian angel or a God.

It is when we lose faith in something is when we give up – be it a job, a person, or even life. Faith is the motivator that promises us of a better future. It is the catalyst that keeps us moving despite hardships and trials. Faith brings us closer to spirituality, because no matter what our beliefs are, the spiritual aspect of faith gives takes us to a deeper place where the analytical brain isn’t capable of entering. Knowledge, logic, and reasoning has its important place in our daily lives, but when we are hoping for a miracle, it is only faith that is by our side. The miracle might not even happen, but isn’t it better to live hoping for a better future than to give up the idea that anything can be different. Now hoping and faith is never going to work if we do not make an effort to change our circumstances, but faith can greatly complement our efforts when we are trying to achieve something.

Faith is too personal to be taken away from someone, or invalidated because it doesn’t match up with someone else’s faith. After all, isn’t faith nothing but hope and trust? So who are we say what gives comfort to a person, and who are we to say that someone’s faith in something is wrong? If it gives them happiness, hope, and a promise for a better future and it doesn’t harm or hurt anyone else, let us respect their faith like we expect them to respect ours. Let us respect that we can coexist together even if we do not share the same faith. Let us acknowledge that faith isn’t fact, it cannot be empirically determined, that there is no wrong faith or right faith. It is only our personal hope for the future.

Choice, control, and respect

Control is about power, not benevolence towards another person. People who do not give choices in life decisions to others do not respect the other person. Control is just another form of emotional abuse. The sad, and ironical part of control is that it perpetuates itself from the abuser to the abused – many who themselves become controlling people. Controlling attitude is prevalent across societies, cultures, and ethnicity. And it generally passes down from generation to generation. It could be nature, but it could also be nurture where if someone never had a choice in life decisions, they do not give that choice to others.

A person might resist a controlling family or spouse, but when a child has known nothing but control since birth, many just accept it as reality and give in to the controlling parents. Some might be strong enough to resist and be rebellious as kids and establish their independence as adults, but many are conditioned to believe that absolute obedience to parents is what makes one a good person. These children grow with an unhealthy outlook on life, where pleasing parents or any authority figure is the only way to receive validation. From a logical standpoint, it would appear that if someone suffered some sort of abuse, that they won’t perpetuate that abuse. Unfortunately, human psychology works in a way where abuse is perpetuated and it passes down in a never-ending cycle because for too many people the abusive life is a reality and they know of no other way of life. Experiencing kindness, compassion, and even freedom could be confusing and sometimes terrifying. When we are in an abusive environment, we learn to stop trusting people and even ourselves. We know that when our so-called well-wishers or loved ones ask something of us, they are actually looking out for their own benefits. As such, we start distrusting other healthy human beings who might show us compassion or love without having any ulterior motives.

The result of being in a controlling relationship is that the abused person tries to get control over whatever aspects of life they can, even at the expense of invading boundaries of newer relationships like friends, spouses, and even children. Besides power, the other aspect of control is a lack of respect for the other person. When we deny someone the life they want to live, we do not respect them. For children, it is an invalidation of their feelings and choices, and if that’s the reality they have known their entire childhood, they grow up to be someone with low self-esteem who needs others’ approval or permission to make any decision. If a child says he feels cold, and a parent says it isn’t cold – it invalidates the child’s feelings. If a child wants to wear something or a teenager says he wants a certain career but his parents say no – it invalidates the child’s choices. Children don’t always make the wisest of decisions, and parents must not agree to every demand. But there is a difference between teaching children how to make good decisions and making decisions for them because of the parents’ controlling and narcissistic personality. If control and a lack of choice is all that a child knows, he/she will grow up to be the same way for two reasons – 1. It is all they know and therefore it the normal to them, 2. They try to make up for the lack of control they had in their lives by trying to control anything else they can. Just like their personal boundaries was invaded by their parents, they invade the boundaries of their partners and children.

Society can be just as controlling as individuals. At the root of it is a lack of respect for individuality. When parents control their children through adulthood, when spouses control their partners, or when government or society makes rules intruding in our private lives, they all disregard the individual. Someone else makes the decision of how we dress, what we eat or drink, what we believe, or whom we can marry. Just like individuals control for power, governments too control the population to perpetuate their power. This is because a population whose thoughts and actions can be controlled isn’t a population that will question its government or leaders.

The opposite of control is choice, and choice is given through respect. When we give someone a choice, we acknowledge their individuality; we respect their thoughts and beliefs. It isn’t choice to tell someone “you must do this or face negative consequences”; it is a threat and an ultimatum. True choice is respecting an individual’s right to shape his or her own life because life is a journey of learning and growing up. What we believe in our 20s isn’t what we believe in our 40s or our 60s. We learn everyday, and we change everyday. I might be a non-vegetarian today, and some day I might become a vegetarian. These same things might become true for my partner and my children. Respecting them is giving them the choice to be what they want to be. It is about respecting their thinking, their personality, and their individuality. If my kid does not believe what I believe, it does not hurt me. But if I prevent him from believing what gives him comfort, then I neither respect his choice, his thinking, nor his happiness. And many people make the mistake that because we are a certain way, our family members must be the same way. Such expectations doesn’t allow others the freedom to grow, learn, or be independent. The only thing we can expect of those close to us is that they treat us with respect, compassion, empathy, love, and kindness. Having expectations of how they should live or believe is disrespecting their personal boundaries. And isn’t this what creates conflict in the world? When we treat our children as an extension of ourselves, not as individual human beings. When we want society to follow our beliefs because we take those beliefs as facts. When we do not respect the rights of others to be different. I might have some personal beliefs, but the difference between beliefs and facts is that beliefs are subjective. Someone else might have equally strong beliefs that completely differ from me. In a controlling or intolerant society, differing beliefs aren’t allowed to exist. Choice and tolerance does not mean giving up our beliefs. It means understanding and respecting that two brains can think and believe differently, and to acknowledge that our beliefs are subjective, and not an universal Truth. Because very few people can treat beliefs as facts and not feel that the other side is Wrong. And if we see someone as inherently Wrong, it becomes less likely to respect them or tolerate their choices. I might believe in God, but I don’t see disbelief as wrong because I cannot prove my beliefs to be a fact. My belief only affects me in a positive way, without negatively affecting others. But if I believe that homosexuality is a sin, I am having a negative belief towards something that does not affect me in any single way. With a negative belief, I am more likely to be intolerant and treat something as a fact that has no basis in objectivity. And once again, we let our subjective feelings invade others’ personal boundaries. When life is a constant journey of learning and growth, beliefs do not stay the same. Seeing them as private beliefs leads to tolerance and harmony. And when we do that, others also see that we respect their choice to think differently, we respect their choice to believe differently, and we respect their individuality. Let us hope for a world where governments, societies, and individuals are less controlling, and more respectful about individuality and personal choices.