The power to compel is not the power to convince

Sometimes, people in positions of authority can command and compel their subordinates to do their bidding. “My way or the highway” is a popular way of stating how authoritarian ultimatums work.

A similar principle applies to other authority roles such as parenting. For example, parents may compel their children to live according to certain values based on their parental authority. While sometimes compulsion may be needed in parenting, it needs to lead to conviction – children need to be convinced about the value of those values. Otherwise, as soon as the children grow up and outgrow their parents’ power to compel, they reject their parents’ values just to vent their resentment and to assert their autonomy.

For the transmission of spiritual values from one generation to another, the transmission of conviction is vital. Of course, even with intellectual conviction, the adolescent and youth years can be challenging for those facing hormonal passions. But at least then it is a battle between their intelligence and their feelings, and though the feelings may win initially, the intelligence will re-assert itself eventually. Otherwise, the battle is between the parents and the children, with the children’s intelligence being used to fight against the values espoused by the parents.

In the Bhagavad-gita, Krishna despite being the omnipotent God doesn’t compel Arjuna to do his will. Instead, through reasoned and refined arguments, he infuses conviction within Arjuna. And in conclusion (18.63) he urges Arjuna to deliberate on the Gita’s message and acknowledges the latter’s independence. Thus, Krishna wants Arjuna to act based on conviction, not compulsion.

Following in Krishna’s footsteps, we too can empower those in our care with intellectual conviction. Thus, we can help them in the most sustainable way: through the power of their conviction, the power that outlives anyone’s external power to compel them.

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1 Comment

  1. It us easy to compel than to convince

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