We often listen to speakers, be it at Jumah, or other occassions – we hear what they have to say, and hopefully take something meaningful and positive out of that – something we can relate into our own lives, and apply to our own selves and way of life.
And many times we do find inspiration and good resolve after having heard such a talk.
But this post is not about that…this is an “irritation” post – something that bugs me. If you’re not in the mood for something negative, you don’t need to read this post. Look at the pictures instead….after all, there are lots of them on this blog 😉
I’ve always had an issue with the word “change” being used in these kinds of talks and lectures. I mean, we all know that we have problems, faults, weaknesses, commit so many sins (whether small or big, knowingly or unknowingly)….but I’ve always felt that motivational talks such as these come across, most times, in a negative light.
Let me put it in terms of how you would try to teach a child behaviour: there’s negative re-inforcement (i.e. punish them if they do something bad), and then there’s positive re-inforcement (reward them for doing something good, or abstaining from something bad).
This method of behavioural teaching is something that we very much find in our deen. Allah often gives us this balancing of the two in the Quran – talking about the punishment for the disbelievers and wrong-doers; and the rewards for those who believe and do good deeds.
To use a phrase that I’ve heard somewhere else, we should live “between hope and fear”.
Anyway, I’ve digressed (as I so often do, for those of you who know me well enough 😉
Before I continue – I should insert the disclaimer – so that anything I say is, hopefully, not taken the wrong way:
Please note: None of this is intended to offend anyone; and I hope you don’t take any of my examples or points as being absolute – I’m not referring to *every* talk or lecture; I’m just referring to a trend that I perceive from the talks and lectures I’ve attended. Its completely my own perception – and we all know how perceptions can differ from person to person. So what comes across one way to me, may come across very differently to another. All I’m doing here is expressing *my* perception, interpretation and thoughts. I’m not labelling any speakers or topics, or poking holes in their approaches…this is an opinion piece. Thats all…an expression of opinion.
My point with the talks – the motivational talks which I perceive to be negative in tone; is that the speakers usually talk about how we need to “change”…and from my understanding, a need to “change” implies that you are starting from a point of negativity, a point of being in the wrong.
Now, I know we are in the wrong a lot of the time – I know that, as mentioned above, we commit sins and we do things we shouldn’t, we wrong OURSELVES and others.
My point here is not to disprove the speakers, or tell them, “you’re wrong – we don’t need to change”.
My issue is that sometimes it comes across to me that the speaker assumes his audience is automatically wrong in character, wrong in actions, wrong in how theylvie their lives.
Of course, in all cases, their message – the essence of their talk – is good and positive, and should be inspiring to us.
But I guess I just take issue with the assumption – what I perceive as the assumption: the assumption that the audience is at this low point – and that the audience needs to “change” to be uplifted.
I don’t like that because speakers often do not know every person in their audience – or even the majority of their audience. You cannot make an assumption about someone else that you don’t know: you can’t call into question their character; lifestyle; level of faith, if you don’t know them at all.
Yes, its true that we all have deficiencies, weaknesses, and sometimes real sicknesses in these areas…but I just don’t like the idea that I’m going to be pre-judged (in a negative light) by someone who doesn’t know me.
Detour ahead…fasten your seatbelt 🙂
Now, before I wrong myself with the rest of this point – I must state right now that this is something I find myself guilty of doing: I let myself build up an impression of a person based on what I see of them; how they look, or how I perceive them to be, based on certain things…and a lot of the time these are negative thoughts, dislikes, which are shaped by my own past experiences of others that have had the same outward qualities.
all these thoughts and perceptions come to me, burrow themselves into my psyche – without me even talking to the person, knowing what they’re really like in person after meeting them.
this is something i’ve realised about myself – that i do this, i make assumptions based on things that aren’t real; biases that are unfair; judgements that are irrational.
and its something i need to work on, and plan on working on.
so, just wanted to say that – because if i didn’t, it would make me a hypocrite; critiscising a concept which i myself am guilty of – assumptions.
Back to the road now (the bit before this little block) :
So, my objection is to the idea that someone i don’t know is, like, telling me i’m a certain way, when they aren’t qualified to comment or assume those things about me.
Basically, the constructive idea i favour – over the ‘negative assumption’ method – is that speakers can, more often, go at things from the opposite side: instead of pushing the theme of “we’re bad” (to oversimplify it) – rather push the theme of positivity and reward. talk about the “good” you can gain by doing certain things; inspire someone to do something better, to change for the better, by taking the approach of positive re-inforcement, rather than critiscising and trying to make people feel bad about themselves all the time, and hoping that guilt will be the catalyst for positive change.
Anyway, so thats my beef with the approach adopted many times by speakers. Again, no harm intended, and no negativity intended…its just perception and opinion. and i do not know what is in the mind of the speaker when they choose and use this approach…and i do not know, truly, how effective their approach is – or whether the “positive approach” i spoke of would be more effective….all i’m doing is speaking for myself. I hope no misunderstanding or ill-feeling is brought about as a result of these words.