A few months back, I finished one of my long chats with my parents and hung up the phone. (This “hanging up the phone phrase” is kind of old in this era, because where do you hang your cell phone?)
I had just spoken to them about how they need to take better care of themselves, do Yoga and exercise regularly and stuff. For a few minutes I reflected on my sermon. And I realized one thing. The reason I really wanted them to do Yoga had only so much to do with them. It had to do a lot with me. I knew that I would have to be primary caretaker for them if they had health issues and I was making sure their health remains good, so I won’t have too much trouble. Was it in their interest as well? Yes. But I was protecting myself and just because it was in their interest, I was trying to force it on them.
There are many things that are in my interest, but I don’t do it if I enjoy it. I don’t like if they are forced on me. So why should they?
This subtle observation, that I was controlling others because I assumed their responsibility and I was trying to keep my work minimum, lead me to examine other areas of my life. Do I do this to others? Do I do this at workplace?
And I saw this behavior so much around me. Parents do this all the time. Forcing the kids to learn things they don’t want. Bosses do it all the time. Forcing employees to perform tasks that solely focus on this assumed infinite responsibility of bosses.
Over the time, this builds up resentment, anger, aversion. This goes against something very basic inside us. Free will. And any attempt to suppress free will backfires sooner or later. After all, we are all in this world not because we want to be protected, not because we want to be controlled, but because we want to live out our free will.
The secret of leadership, parenting, and reverse-parenting as in my case, is one and the same, and is stated aptly by Lao Tzu in Tao De Jing,
“The secret of cooking the smallest fish, is same as secret of governing the largest empire. With a gentle touch.”