Hand of God… Really?
Let me tell you a short story. A person X cheated another person Y to take away his money and then with that money X created a successful initiative and became a celebrated leader. Now if I tell you that X is conducting a session on leadership lessons, would you be interested in listening to him?
If your answer is ‘No’ then we need to ask ourselves, Why?
Look at it this way — the person did become a leader after all… so what’s the problem listening to him on that?
And you know the answer… the challenge is that what one attains is important… but equally (or probably more) important is how one attains it, because a “human” society is created on the foundation of values like honesty, integrity, discipline, hard work, empathy, etc. We all cherish them and that’s why we all want out children to learn them also in their growing up days.
Not at this point let me share another story. Those of you who are football fans/ Maradona fans will know what “Hand of God” refers to. For those who don’t know, the ‘God’ of football, Argentine footballer Diego Maradona, in the quarterfinal match (during 1986 football World Cup) between Argentina and England, scored a goal by hitting the football with his hand. Since the referee could not see this and in those days, there were no video referees, the goal was declared a valid goal and Argentina went on to win the match 2–1. Not only that, the t-shirt Maradona wore while scoring this famous goal sold for almost GBP 7 million few days back. Now reflect on this incident in the light of our previous story and ask yourself, “What world we will be inhabiting if this is the value of our God?”/“If this is how God and his hand work, would you want to call him a God?”
If your answer is ‘Yes’ then you will be wasting your time reading the remaining of this blog. However, if your answer is ‘No’ then we need to ask ourselves — Why is such a goal considered as Hand of God? Why not Hand of Cheat? Why should it not be relegated to worst parts of human history? What kind of stories/events we want to immortalize?
And it is these questions that bring me to children and education. It is a well-known and also a well-researched fact that children learn by observing and imitating adults. That’s why you see small children playing role play kind of games a lot in their growing up years… it is their way to experience and make sense of the world they are inhabiting. Now keeping this learning pattern of children in mind ponder over the following questions:
- How do we present stories to our children? Stories of winners all the time or also stories of people striving to uphold certain values irrespective of fact whether they win or not? To give an example, do we tell them only about the successes of Sachin Tendulkar/Adam Gilchrist/MS Dhoni/etc. OR do we also tell them as to how each one of them have left the field even when field umpires were not even aware that they were out?
- When we tell our children Ramayana, do we do so by emphasizing the fact that Rama killed a bad person Ravana OR do we also tell the child that the same Rama post the war went to Ravana, folded his hands and requested him to share his knowledge with mankind before leaving the world… and the same bad Ravana did share his learning with his slayer? Are we creating a good vs. bad world or a world full of empathy and generosity? Are we emphasizing to our children the win of Rama or the values of Rama?
- What are we emphasizing to our children in our conversations — skills or values? Do we tell our children about the amazing skills of Einstein or do we also tell them about the significant efforts he put to reduce the nuclear weapons in the world and bring peace?
- When our child fails, we all tell them about how failures teach us important life lessons — but do we in our daily life celebrate failures the same way we celebrate our successes? How do we behave with our children when they fail vis-à-vis when they succeed? Are we one of those parents who gift their child with their favorite ice-cream when they win and give them a long lecture on the importance of failures when they lose?/Do we tell our children stories of our own failures with same reverence as we talk about our successes? Are we accepting of people who fail or are we busy awarding/celebrating people who succeed?
- When an inauguration ceremony needs to be done or a chief guest needs to be picked up, who are more often called up in our society — CEOs/successful sports captains/award winners/etc. OR people who displayed amazing level of humanity/people who choose to lose so that someone’s morale/dignity/etc. can be preserved/people who take a step back and gracefully let someone else take a step forward/people who donated their time/money to worthwhile causes and choose not to beat their drums/people who setup an institution and yet don’t name it after themselves or their father/mother/grandfather/etc.
- etc. etc. etc.
In short, are we telling our children about Hand of God goal OR are we using the Hand of God goal as an example to explain to children, how the Hand of God should not and does not look like?
Emphasizing once again — yes, children are paying attention to all that we say, but remember they pay a much larger attention to all that we do. We can tell our children as many times as we want about honesty/discipline/integrity/hard work/empathy/etc. but do we display that in the kind of stories we celebrate with right emphasis — kind of people we talk about or respect or are in awe with — kind of conversations we create?
Our children learn from what we are doing and not so much from what we are saying. The greatness of a nation is determined by the kind of role models its citizens talk about on a daily basis, and not by the names we mention in passing in our history books. And this is where a serious challenge with modern day parenting and education springs up. Every parent wants their child to have values but more often than not we handle them the way schools do it — one class in a week on something called as value education and then rest of the time it’s all about who scored how many marks. This reminds me of a real incident that I had seen in a school sometime back. During the Sports Day, one of the events was a 100m race. Immediately after the race started, one of the child tripped and fell. The child quietly got up, dusted and left the field. But what were the parents/teachers/guests/students doing — majority of them were busy seeing who won the race and then clap when the medals are given. Yeah I am sure some would have felt bad on seeing that child trip and I am sure some sympathetic words would have been spoken to the child, but that’s it. Now, after this event imagine the parents, of at least those children who didn’t win any medals, go home and teach their children about Olympic spirit, “Participating is more important then winning.” No wonder it falls on deaf ears. Children cannot and will not learn by lip service… nature has designed them to be amazing observers and then learn by imitation. When we keep emphasizing winning all the time through all kinds of actions (“See Guptaji ke ladke ne IIT clear kar liya”), while intermittently talking about some hallowed values (“Participating is more important then winning”), the message is not lost on them.
The Olympic motto is “Citius Altius Fortius”… meaning “Faster Higher Stronger”. It was coined in 1894. In 2021 it was amended to “Citius, Altius, Fortius — Communis”… meaning “Faster Higher Stronger — Together”. It took us more than a century to move our emphasis from competition to cooperation.
As they say, we are what we do (and not what we talk)… similarly when it comes to children they become what they see us doing and not what they hear us speaking. So, next time when you label the next generation with negative words like short-tempered/attention deficit/restless/not focused/etc. etc., remind yourself that they were not born with this… somewhere they imitated people around them and learnt their life lessons. Its time we understand this and change the narrative.
“We can’t create a happy world by thinking/talking about unhappiness all the time”.
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