It’s not just about you – it never was
“It’s just about me.” That’s how we sometimes minimize our moral lapses. We think that as long as we can maintain an appearance of being good, no one will know or be hurt.
However, surveys show that even the most introvert people over their lifetime influence more than ten thousand people. If that’s the scale of influence of inconspicuous introverts, how much more will be the scale of influence of ultra-visible social leaders?
The Bhagavad-gita (03.21) underscores the defining role of leaders as society’s behavioral torchbearers – they set the standards that others emulate. So when leaders act immorally, they lower in the public eye the culture’s bar of morally acceptable behavior. Consequently, people imitate such morally loose leaders, thereby accelerating society’s ethical degeneration.
We may or may not fancy ourselves as leaders, but when we start living spiritually, leadership is thrust on us – people start seeing us, our actions and words, as standards of what spiritual life is all about. To them, we represent Krishna.
If we misbehave and our misbehavior comes to light – and it will, sooner or later, if we continue indulging in it – three broad groups of people get affected. Atheists get more venom to spew at what they deride as hypocritical religionists; fence-sitters get one more reason to stay away from God; and devotees have to survive yet another discouragement, or even devastation if they had derived a lot of inspiration from us. That’s why it’s never just about us. It wasn’t even when we weren’t representing Krishna. And it certainly isn’t now, when we represent him.
Contemplating the consequentiality of our actions doesn’t, however, have to be burdening. It can be empowering if we consider that with every choice we have the opportunity, small but still undoubtedly significant, to contribute to our and society’s moral regeneration.
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