We Give Ourselves Too Much Credit


A friend of mine had just learned that his cancer had returned. He also just had his first baby. He revealed to me one day his deep regret and sadness over bringing a baby into this world, now that there was a chance of not being around for his newborn daughter. Because I felt he would understand my point, I told him: “You’re giving yourself too much credit.” I moved on to explain to him what I meant.

I feel that this is true for most of us. We give ourselves too much credit.

I’ll explain. But first, a story.

Once there was an honest merchant in India, who was a devotee of Lord Rama, a form God is revered for some. When people who wanted to buy his goods asked for the price, he would say “By the will of Rama, the cost of the material for this good was 1 rupee, and, by the will of Rama, my labor for making this good is worth 1 rupee, and so, by the will of Rama, the price is 2 rupees. And everybody knew he was an honest pious man, and, although it is common practice in India to haggle, they didn’t with him.

One day a group of thieves set him up to help them rob a place. They stole some goods and placed them over the merchant’s head to carry for them. When officers came by, they all fled, leaving the honest man alone, with the stolen goods over his head. He was arrested.

Many people from the town came to testify for his innocence. And so when the judge asked the man to explain himself, he responded: “By the will of Rama, I was passing by in the alley yesterday, when a group of robbers came and forced me to carry what they had stolen, by the will of Rama. And by the Rama, I was arrested by some officers and brought over here. By the will of Rama I spent the night in prison. And now, by the will of Rama, I’m speaking to you.” And the judge saw how pious and honest he was, and released him.

In my spiritual path, we routinely use the phrase “Give it to God.” A great advice to give indeed. It reminds us, no matter the outcome, success or failure, surrender it all to God. Do your part, and leave it all to the Divine to sort out. Don’t take credit for yourself when things go well, nor blame yourself when something doesn’t go as expected. In fact, Yogananda told us that God likes it when we blame our faults on Him, for several reasons I believe. One, this establishes a personal communication with God. That itself is progress for most of us. Second, it is acknowledging that essentially “God is the doer” of all things. He created us, as well as, Maya, the power of delusion. He used to say to tell God “I didn’t ask to be born, you put me here, now you get me out of this fine mess!”

Yes, we say “Give it to God”. But the truth is that nothing is ours to give in the first place! It is all God’s working, through you and me. This is what the pious merchant in the story knew. Whatever happens is the will of Rama, not yours, not me. Why feel good or bad about it? God succeeds and fails through us, for no reason but because of a grand vision that knows exactly what we need to grow spiritually.

Do we give ourselves credit for being in this life in the first place? For being alive? Of course not. There is clearly a greater universal intelligence and power, infinitely beyond our little self, making it all happen. Then why do we think we’re in charge of particular details in our daily lives? If we really examine anything that we have done, we realize millions of things, all beyond ourselves, had to work in concert to make it happen. If we’re honest, we can never claim that we’re actually in charge!

No, we’re not in charge! And thank God for that! We’re taken care of by a greater omniscient divine reality bringing us what we need at the time we need them. In our eyes, they might look like success or failure, good or bad. Nonetheless, it is all God-given. Understanding this takes a heavy burden of anxiety off of our shoulders. We can relax! We’re taken care of. We’re not in charge!

Today, there’s epidemic toxic anxiety in our societies, pretty much across the board, but especially among our teenagers and youth. All because of the sad illusion that “I am in charge!” “I have to fix it all” “It’s me against the whole world”. Relax my dear ones. We are not in charge!

That was my message to my friend, who has, thank God, recovered from his illness.

But there is one thing that we are indeed in charge of. We have been granted a free will to accept, surrender, and flow with the light, with what comes to us, or to reject and resist it and turn towards darkness.

That choice is ours at any given moment. Nothing else really is.

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