Break people’s misconceptions – don’t break people
The Bhagavad-gita concludes by urging us to share its message of love with others (18.68-69). Sometimes, we misconstrue this call to share as a license to go on the offensive, to break people’s misconceptions for getting them to accept the Gita. Unfortunately, our overzealousness makes us go beyond breaking their misconceptions to hurting and breaking them. Thus, we end up alienating them instead of attracting them.
To prevent such unintended consequences, we need to remember that people are not their opinions. They are souls, eternal and beloved parts of Krishna, even if they have strong misconceptions.
When we equate people with their present opinions, then, during our preaching, we end up targeting people instead of their misconceptions. If people sense that an intellectual discussion has turned into a personal attack, their defences go up. Even if our strong arguments break those defences, people don’t get persuaded; they feel even more threatened now that their defences have broken. So, being driven by a misinformed reflex for self-defence, they come up with some excuse, however flimsy, for not accepting the truth. Pertinently, the Bhagavad-gita (03.26) urges us to not disturb people’s minds, but to encourage them onwards in their spiritual journey at a speed and level they find suitable.
Essentially, we need to see people as partners, not opponents, in the search for the truth. Of course, some people may stay antagonistic, no matter how amiable our conduct. If their hostility is unremitting, then we may need to end the discussion and serve them through our prayers. But frequently when we change our attitude from inimical to cordial, then we will speak and act, consciously and subconsciously, in ways that gets people’s defences down. The more they become more open to the Gita’s illuminating wisdom, the more it empowers them to overcome their misconceptions.
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