- “Don’t shelter under a wild banana tree and then cut it down when it stops raining.” – Tanzanian proverb
Going to school and passing examinations might make you clever – but without a sound value system as a foundation, one is more likely to use their skills and talents selfishly. It was such an understanding that inspired C. S. Lewis to argue: “The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles but to irrigate deserts. The right defence against false sentiments is to inculcate just sentiments. By starving the sensibility of our pupils, we only make them easier prey to the propagandist when he comes”.
That is not to suggest that one can never acquire a good value structure from schooling. The reality is that the two are not always interdependent. There are loads of people we interact with on a daily basis who have gained great knowledge from years of schooling, but who have no compassion in them and are unwilling to use their intelligence to uplift others – or even contribute to developing our society. More often than not they would rather use their cleverness to beat the system, to the detriment of everyone.
This is what makes mere learning without a sound value structure extremely dangerous to our humanity. As a matter of fact, knowing much about the state of affairs does not make one immune to a lapse in judgement. One needs the essential ingredient of a ‘care for improving the lot of others’ mind-set to enable the formulation of sound judgements. Sadly, many of us have cultivated what can be labelled a separation between intelligence and a ‘care for others’.
This is more an artificial divide that is used to shed or deny responsibilities. It is probably not surprising that many employers do not even hold their employees to their own corporate value system. They plaster the walls with a set of values, but their evaluation systems have nothing to do with values and everything to do with meeting targets. What message is being sent across?
The effect of this artificial divide between intelligence and a care for others is that the individual’s value system is lessened in importance when it comes to how they work and interact. What we lose by this attitude is that we encourage individuals to strategise to take advantage of situations instead of helping to create synergy. When you do not demand that people act morally, we enlarge the boundaries of permissibility. And as long as ‘possibilities’ is the mantra of our age, people will utilise whatever means they deem necessary to achieve whatever they desire.
Relationships have implications, and without a ‘care for others’ in the picture, everything becomes acceptable. People will create possibilities and keep expanding them, for deep down we all desire the world to revolve around us. And when that happens who has the right to determine what is wrong, and why? The point here is not about the legitimisation of ‘possibilities’, but rather to point out how much when a ‘care for others’ is missing in our possibilities we become corrupt and create chaos in our communities and organisations.
Too often, many of us downplay the importance of a ‘care for others’. What results is we fail to hold individuals and groups accountable for their actions against others. A compassionate attitude does not enslave us. On the contrary, it frees us to live noble lives. That is why Spirituality has always advocated for a ‘care for others’ as the essence of our relationship with God. A care for others means seeing with the eyes and feeling with the heart of the divine, no matter the extremes of the conditions.
A care for others requires that we draw lines about acceptable behaviour. And those lines should always be centred on “what is good for you should also for good for the next person, and vice versa”. It is an attitude that allows us to live beyond ourselves and thus create solutions for the whole, instead of the self-centred policies and programmes we are used to drawing up. It is akin to enlarging life and making it meaningful and fruitful for every single individual to live and actually enjoy living. We become fully alive when those around us are also alive. Let us therefore cultivate a care for others; for after all, it took the ‘care for others’ for us to become who we are now…
Kodwo Brumpon is a management consultant and a life coach who inspires individuals, groups and corporate bodies to think and feel that which is true, and helps them positively respond to that which is beautiful while nudging them to let goodness govern their actions. Comments, suggestions and requests should be sent to him at [email protected]