As I entered into the auditorium where about forty people were waiting for me. I noticed something, out of about 10 light bulbs, only six were lit. The other four were off. My question was out of all these people here, does that mean that nobody noticed that all these bulbs were not on? Or was it a question of indifference? With the bulbs, I dealt with that very fast. I only had to walk to the light switch and I switched on the remaining four bulbs which resulted in a brighter room, a clearer view and a generally warmer atmosphere.
“The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.” ― Barack Obama
When we decide to step out to overcome indifference, complacency, inertness, then things change around us. Progress comes to our communities. Transformation comes to our land. Growth and advancement is witnessed by all. Just like we saw with the changes that happen in the auditorium after I switched on the remaining light bulbs: brighter room, a clearer view and a generally warmer atmosphere. But the question remains, does it mean it never crossed the mind of any of the people in the hall to check it out, if the lights were on or not?
As I walked to my seat in front of the auditorium, something else caught my attention. Like in any other auditorium, there are always two or three chairs that are empty. But this time these chairs were not orderly in any way. To further provoke my bewilderment, I saw there were several people around those chairs who nevertheless, seem not to have noticed the disorderliness of their arrangement.
Here again arises the question, what does this all tell me about people? What makes me to notice things that are in disorder while others seem to be oblivious of them? Why is it that I get concerned about things that are out of order, while some are just coldly indifferent?
“The hardest thing to explain is the glaringly evident which everybody has decided not to see.” ― Ayn Rand.
This type of occurrences of course happens to me on regular basis. I am just using this particular occasion for the sake of illustration. But, everywhere I go, I seem to notice what almost no one else notices. Leading me to a more frustrated state of mind, about the difference in men.
I assume you guess what happened next. Off goes my previously prepared message for the day, flying out the window. I just couldn’t get myself to preach the already prepared message of the day. I needed to address the issue at hand, so I turned the table around on my ready audience.
My question to them was, how come none of you noticed those light bulbs that were off? My second question was, how about those three chairs roaming around the place, you mean you didn’t notice them? Or why is it that nobody did anything about those things?
The answers I got, now formed the basis for this my message. So you readers, you might need to be thanking God for that incident in that auditorium that day. If not for it, I probably won’t be writing this article to you today.
The reasons given by my respected audience, which has kept on repeating itself from place to place, are indeed lessons in the studies of the nature of man.
- Some said they did not notice neither the light, the bulbs that were not on, nor the chairs that were out of place.
- Others noticed both the light bulbs that were off and the chairs that were out of place. Their reasons for inaction? They thought it was none of their business. Sincerely so, none of them were employed to take care of such matters. The question I now had is, do you need to be employed in other to fix what’s wrong? Must you be employed before you can be proactive?
- Yet, others noticed things that were out of place and thought to themselves, that it could be that is the way things are supposed to be. In other words, it could be that the rule of the house is that light bulbs are not meant to give light and those three chairs that were not arranged, maybe are just meant to roam around the place, while others are well arranged.
- The fourth group of people noticed things that were out of order. Their reason was quite telling. They are the ones who tell themselves, well do I need to give myself any additional problems? They were quite sincere though. Nobody wants some extra troubles, because in their thinking, if they speak out about the things that are out of place, they might be equally asked to be the ones to fix them. That of course attracts all forms of inconveniences with it. So the fear of discomfort, additional troubles is stopping a huge amount of people in our world from bringing about positive changes.
“I don’t want to live in the kind of world where we don’t look out for each other. Not just the people that are close to us, but anybody who needs a helping hand. I can’t change the way anybody else thinks, or what they choose to do, but I can do my bit.” ― Charles De Lint
All the troubles of our world are in these four points listed above. Indifference, complacency, apathy, disinterest, nonchalance, etc, are ruining our world.
Let’s examine more closely, the first item that was listed in the points above:-
1. WE DID NOT NOTICE:
The first category seen above is the category of people that do not notice things that are out of order in their environment. For example, the first time I went back to my home country, Nigeria after staying for three years in Europe, it led to an experience of shock and depression. That feeling of disillusionment was largely caused by our metropolitan pride city of Lagos.
Before I ever travelled overseas, Lagos had seemed to me to be a modern metropolitan city of great admiration. Now as I write this, I cannot help but exclaim it to myself, a phrase in my native language of Yoruba – “Omo oko” (meaning Bush Boy).
My shock and depression came as a result of the realization that I and millions of my country men were hugely deceived into thinking Lagos was a city at all, talk less of talking about it as a modern metropolitan city. I must say though that I am not talking about the Lagos of today. I am talking about the Lagos of about 30 years ago, the years of Babangida/Abacha regimes.
Even before my plane landed, the view of the city was already quite disheartening. The brown sun scotched roofs of the houses, the littering buildings and constructions all over the place. The lack of planning, lack of structure and lack of system, runs contrary to everything obtainable in Europe.
On getting out of the airport though, and for the next five weeks of my stay in Nigeria, I got yet another shock. This time, the shock was the fact that people living within Nigeria especially those who have not travelled abroad, don’t see anything wrong with the way the system and the city run. Including the government officials who are supposed to fix those problems.
Worst still, even those who complain in my beloved country, those who could easily be termed as professional complainers. Though complaining, yet they would not be able to tell you exactly what is wrong with the system. All these people belong to this our first group we are examining in this article. They belong to the group of those who don’t notice what is out of order and what needs to be fixed.
“Our actions – and inaction – touch people we may never know and never meet across the globe.” – Jacqueline Novogratz
A closer example to every one of my readers would be a situation, I often see all around me both in Africa and in Europe.
Dear reader, have you ever seen a situation where someone walks into the room where you are sitting and out of the people seated there, nobody seems to bother to offer him a seat? Either because they expect him to find a seat for himself, or they refuse to make a seat more comfortable for the newcomer. Whatever the reason may be, they refused to act. We often see this on regular basis, in fact maybe we ourselves have often failed to react constructively in similar situations.
What makes men not to notice other men’s plights? What makes people not to see the needs of others? What is it that is responsible for the “blindness” to the seemingly obvious?
There is indeed a reason for such responses or lack of responses. When you don’t notice the obvious. When you fail to even realize there are things out of order around you, then that is not just bad, that is catastrophic. The reason though for such “blindness” is often subtle, muted and subdued in our very person, that we will not readily admit to ourselves that we have a problem.
Ladies and gentlemen, when you don’t notice issues, challenges, disorderliness and chaos around you or you’re indifferent to them. That could only mean one thing, YOU HAVE BEEN BLINDED BY YOUR NEEDS.
It is only selfishness that causes us not to see or notice the things that are out of order in our immediate environments. In such cases it is often because we are presently thinking of those things that are bothering us, things that are troubling us, and things that are of a concern to us. Our personal burdens, needs and challenges rarely give us the chance to care enough to notice.
In a situation like this, only one cure is helpful. We would need to first of all decide to be less selfish, to be less self-focused, before we could begin to see. Our eyes will not be open enough to see things that are not of a concern to us directly. Those things begin to be visible only as we become less and less selfish and egocentric.
“What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.” — Albert Pike
Dear friends, I want to encourage you to challenge yourself to be less troubled about your matters, to worry less. It is the cure for social blindness. PLEASE FRIENDS, BE DETERMINED TO DEVELOP THE ABILITY TO SEE.
2. THOSE WHO NOTICED BUT DECIDE IT IS NONE OF THEIR BUSINESS:
In our second category of people, we see those who actually saw the problem, yet decided to be indifferent. These people are not totally blind, they could see, God has graced them with the ability to see. But they have decided not to use that faculty.
It is one thing for a man or woman not to see. Then at least he could be excused as being blind. There is only one other thing that is worse than blindness, that is when a man or woman has eyes but cannot see. That is similar to what we are examining in this point. Men who look, but don’t see. Men who see physically but don’t see mentally. Men who see on the surface but don’t see the depth. Such men will brag to themselves in the fact that they are better than the blind while indeed they are actually worse. For it is only one thing that could be worse than blindness. That is to have eyes and not see.
In this category, we are talking of people who have eyes, but don’t have sight. They see the issues as a matter of fact, but they don’t see the need to respond to them. That indeed is a greater tragedy than blindness.
This is not the reaction of a healthy person. A healthy person mentally and spiritually, does not just notice the situation on the ground, it goes beyond that, to finding ways of fixing the situation. A healthy person that God refers to as a real man will not pass by a need. That is a lesson Jesus was trying to teach us in the story of the Good Samaritan.
A healthy person that is a true man in the eyes of God: Is a person of action. A person of responses. He is a proactive person. If somebody walks into the room where he is, he is the first to stand up and get a chair for the visitor. He is the first to ask about the welfare of the people in need. He would not just arrange the chairs, he would switch on all the light bulbs, he would find out the need of those in the auditorium. If a truly healthy man in the eyes of God is driving down the street of his city, he would not pass by the poor woman, walking down that same street with tears in her eyes. A real man by God’s standard will park his jeep beside the road and ask the poor lady what he could do to help her.
“There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up.” – John Holmes
Yes some individuals will come up with an excuse that if a stop to help that woman, she could be an armed robber or something bad could happen, yes I know exactly what you mean, but that is still putting your own interest above the interest of the others. Whereas a real man in this kingdom, is adjoined by God to put the interest of others before his. Can you imagine the Good Samaritan refusing to stop by the bloody victim just because he could be afraid he might be an armed robber? Then Jesus will not be telling that story and it would not be an example to the world today. We can always find excuses, but it is better to find an argument why we could become a real man as God sees it.
On a lighter note, a real man notices not just the big issues of life, like the challenges, the troubles and the sorrows of life. A real man will also notice seemingly mundane things like the beautiful dress of a lady, who walks into a meeting and compliment her for her efforts. A real man will notice seemingly insignificant things like other people’s dress code, hair style, suits, haircuts, style, pleasant images, etc.
A story is told about Abraham Lincoln and the pig –
Riding an Illinois circuit one day, he found a pig, struggling in some deep mud, and evidently nearly exhausted; the sight hurt him, and having on a new suit of clothes, he reluctantly rode on. But piggy had got hold of the lawyer’s heart-strings; the farther he went the more uneasy he became, and at the end of the two miles he turned round, rode back, made a bridge of rails out into the mud, dug out the pig, and then resumed his journey, with very muddy clothes, but with his mind at ease.
As characteristic as his kindness, was the self-analysis that followed. He fell to considering what his motive had been. At first he said to himself that it was benevolence; but he concluded in the end that it was selfishness; for he rescued the pig, he said, “in order to take a pain out of his own mind.”
Great souls like that of Abraham Lincoln, would not just notice the needs of other men or their environment for that matter, they go beyond the ordinary, as seen in the story above. Their heart is large enough to accommodate not just humans, but animals as well.
“You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.” ― John Bunyan
To pass by a need does not tell too much about our humanity, but to respond to a need better reveals the nature of God in us. If in the case of the first category of people, who did not notice or see the needs of the people round them. This second category actually see the need, but they don’t see the need to respond to it. In the first instance it is a case of blindness, as bad as blindness is, it is curable. That is what makes this second category worse, because you can already see, your eyes are wide open yet you refuse to see the need to respond. Your eyes therefore in this case become useless, redundant and a waste.
Another thing that makes this second category worse is when you see a need and you actually saw it, yet you refused to see the need to respond, you are not blind but worse. You are actually unscrupulous. When a man is unscrupulous that means he does not have any moral principles, he is not a fair man and he is not honest with himself. Such a man could be said to be wicked and brutal. With his conscience first, before being brutal with other men.
A real man in the eyes of God, will concern himself with every challenge of his community and even nation. If he cannot himself resolve the issue at hand, he at least does something about what he sees. He would maybe set up an organization, social group, NGO, to address the problem. He would maybe write an article, write a book or start a blog.
If you feel you are powerless before the daunting challenge before you, you can at least raise an alarm about the situation. You could mobilize people, challenge governments, and get international organizations involved.
It is wrong to be indifferent. It is wrong to be complacent. It is wrong to live in self-satisfaction. It is rather healthy according to God to always respond to the issues around us. We must let the challenges in our immediate environment to affect, touch us and push us to action. The level of poverty in our nation should concern us. The hungry people who go to bed without a meal should concern us. The plight of the students who cannot finish their education because of strikes and riots should be a concern to us. The unpaid civil servants predicament, should be our pain also. That is how those regarded as men in Gods eyes respond to the world around them.
“For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not keep quiet, until her righteousness goes forth like brightness, And her salvation like a torch that is burning.” Isaiah 62:1
3. THOSE WHO NOTICE BUT THINK THINGS MUST BE NORMAL THE WAY THEY ARE:
This third category of people are those who think everything is normal the way they are even though they see that things are out of order. What causes a man or woman to get to this state of mind? People who we tend to think are good people, sometimes live with this kind of mindset. The reason for such an attitude is the failure to develop in oneself a critical mindset. Such attitudes are a result of lack of depth analysis as a way of life.
When people refuse to think deep and hard on issues around them, they end up in the third category. They begin to assume the society is functioning the way it is meant to function.
In this situation when people notice what is going on and submit to it as the norm, they are not just blinded in their eyes like in the first category. But here their mind has become blind. The mind is both blind and blank. It is mainly as a result of the laziness of the mind, when we try to avoid straining ourselves. When we don’t wish to task our mind, we end up losing the functionality of it. Even though we still have the mind, but we don’t see the functions. Is that not tragic?
Most of the pains and oppression going on in our world today is mainly because good men have refused to think and act.
“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil, is that good men do nothing.” – Edmund Burke
There is just no way good men will be silent, if they think. Lack of action is a direct action of lack of thought. If we would think deep and hard about trouble, every problems in our society and countries, we would notice that there is something we can all do about them.
The most important action that anybody could undertake is first to think. Every authentic action starts with the mind – thinking. When you think you would see the need to act. When you think you would act.
Lee frank puts it perfectly in his web quote:
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
All that is needed for the forces of evil to triumph is for enough good men to do nothing.
All that is required for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing.
In order for ‘evil’ to prevail, all that need happen is for ‘good’ people to do nothing.
All that is needed for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing.
The surest way for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing.
All it will take for evil to prevail is for good people to do nothing.
All that is necessary for the forces of evil to take root in the world is for enough good men to do nothing.
All that is needed for the forces of evil to succeed is for enough good men to remain silent.
All it takes for Evil to prevail in this world is for enough good men to do nothing.
The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
4. THOSE WHO NOTICE WHAT IS WRONG, BUT DON’T WISH TO INCUR MORE PROBLEMS TO THEIR TROUBLES:
This category of people want to live a quiet and peaceful life. They mainly care for the welfare of themselves, their immediate families and their beloved ones. If something does not concern them personally, they are ready to forgo and bypass it.
In real sense, such people are simply afraid of problems. They are scared of troubles. Challenges intimidate them. They are normally trouble conscious. They don’t want anything they do to complicate their lives. What such person does not know though, is that when you run away from problems then you risk to remain a nonentity in life, because greatness comes through troubles.
“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
There is no elevation without trials. They don’t know that in real life, problems are ways to success. It is because we solve problems that we have a job. If there were no problems you would not be employed where you are working right now. If you are selling food stuffs, it is because people are hungry. You are resolving the problem of hunger. If you are in the clothing business it’s because there is a problem of the risk of nakedness. You have just solved a problem right there of humans walking naked in the streets. Any problem we see or hear about in life is a call for elevation because as soon as you resolve that problem, you become the hero above that situation.
Goliath and his challenge to Israel, was a call to elevation, but the only person who got promoted was the one who took the challenge and solved the problem. Problems, troubles, challenges, friends are your call to promotion.
Can you now imagine people in this category saying they don’t want more problems? That is like saying, I don’t want more elevation, I don’t want more promotion, and I don’t want more success.
The truth in life is that comfort is more costly than sacrifice. Silence is too expensive a price to pay. We should change our perspective on problems. Helping other people doesn’t add to your problem, they add to your opportunities.
And He said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to kill?” But they kept silent. Mark 3:4
Do you remember what happened when I put on the light bulb as I narrated in the beginning of this article? As soon as I switched on the light, we had a brighter room, a clearer view and a generally warmer atmosphere. That is the kind of change that takes place in any country, in any society when you have men and women who are ready to step out of their comfort zone, to resolve the problems of others and the society at large.
“A person may cause evil to others not only by his actions but by his inaction, and in either case he is justly accountable to them for the injury.” ― John Stuart Mill
Most of the privileges and benefits of civilization we enjoy today is all as a result of people who are not afraid of adding problems to their troubles.
- Thomas Edison – He met so much trouble on his way to making the light bulb but today the whole world is enjoying the fruit of his labor.
- Benjamin franklin – He paid a high price trying to develop himself in great virtues. So many troubles he encountered in his life time, but the result? He became the founding father of a nation. Helped write the American Constitution, the American Declaration of Independence. Not a bad pay day for your trouble huh?
- Martin Luther king – He had so much troubles, he was even killed for it. Yet today black men in America can hold their head high in the committee of nations. Thank God he added trouble to his problems.
- Martin Luther the reformer – In spite of all the evil of the then catholic church, he threw himself into more problems in an effort to reform the church. Today thanks to his willingness to look for troubles, the world is enjoying the fruit of the Protestants today.
- The Wright Brothers – They had so much problems that many people thought they would not survive them, but today we can all fly across continents and the Atlantic for their troubles.
- People like Henry Ford, Honda, and Mercedes Benz – They asked for so much problems in their life time but if not for those troubles, we would not be riding cars today.
- Isaac Newton – He had so much troubles that he didn’t leave his room and laboratory for years, studying and researching. But if not for those troubles we would not be enjoying the technological advancement of our age in automobile industries and mechanized civilization.
- Alexander Graham Bell – He had more problems than one man could bear, but the telephone industry today is great compensation for those troubles.
- Hippocrates (father of medicine) – He must have gone through hell to become the father of medicine but such trouble is worth it to leave your name in history.
- Abraham Lincoln – His troubles and challenges were endless, but how would you like to be regarded as the one that ended slavery?
- Mother Teresa – She lived we could say, a life of sorrow and perpetual troubles, but thanks to her, millions of men women and children now live a life of dignity and her name is cemented in the sand of history.
- Our own Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison, most of it in solitary confinement to become the father of the new South Africa. 27 years in prison must have been a lot of trouble, but to become a Nelson Mandela, it might just be worth it.
To cut the long story short, those who are regarded as men in God’s eyes, always respond to troubles, challenges and difficulties with an aim to resolving them. All these examples we have seen above are of great men. For men to be great and leave their names in history, it is not easy. It usually comes through facing challenges, troubles, sorrow and surmounting them. When you are able to do that, God calls you a real man.
Is that what Jesus did? He saw our desperate situation in sin and death responded with a solution. Is that what God almighty did? He saw the earth in void and darkness, his response? Light and illumination. All the beautiful things in the planet, the things in heaven and earth, are all as a result of the initial problems God saw.
For us to be men and women in God eyes, we must begin to act like him especially in respect to troubles and challenges and everything that is out of order in our immediate environment.
FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, CHURCH AND NATION
By Pastor Sunday Adelaja.