The other day over lunch, me and my work friend were discussing, how people tend to judge you for having a friend who has different personality traits than you. For example, imagine one is an introvert and often feigns an interest in socializing, and one usually hangs out with a bunch of friends that are also introverts and despise social events. Now imagine one is also friends with a person A who is the exact opposite and loves hanging out at parties. The same bunch of friends will surely try and exorcise the existence of person A from your life and would insist that A is bad company and if you continue hanging out with that “darned” friend, people would assume you too are bad company.
Since I was a child I have been hearing this idiom over and over again, “Man is known by the company he keeps.” And when I ponder over this now, I feel like since the time we start growing up, we are taught to judge other people on how they choose to live. We are taught to not only judge them, but also stay away lest we are infested by the same germs. So basically, since a very young age, we are conditioned to believe that every wrong doing we commit in our lives, every bad habit that we have, has to have come from someone that we hung out with. We are taught to believe that, spending time with someone who has a differential approach to social norms, we will go astray.
Now don’t get me wrong, I understand how it is so important to distinguish, for the innocent and impressionable minds of children, the difference between right and wrong. It is imperative that we teach them about social norms, about acceptability and the environment, and inculcate in them a sense of culture. It is the whole concept of nature and nurture and I get it.
What has been bugging me lately is how we grow up with this judgmental concept in mind that “man is known by the company he keeps”. It infuriates me that adults, people who are supposed to be in full command of their mental capacities, not only judge others for the way they choose to live their lives, brand them as “bad company”, but also seem to believe that they have the power to influence the decisions others make in their lives. Being an adult myself, I believe I could hang out with a bunch of drug addicts and would not even for a second contemplate taking up drug usage.
In today’s world, where individuality and entrepreneurship is all the rage, and everyone just wants to own up to even the achievements that are not their own, it surprises me how easy it is for people to place blame on others for their own bad habits. The fact is that if you are in the company of a person who, for example, bites their nails and two months down the lane, you start biting your own nails, you have no self control and/or discipline. Instead of owning your own short comings, you award that responsibility to the person you are in the company off because it’s the easier thing to do I believe? Because why else would you hold another person responsible for an act that you are committing? And it is easy because all your young life you have been taught to believe that it is all so simple. All the miracles are yours and all the bad habits are because of your company.
I have seen working environments being disrupted because of this one notion, where an entire office shuns a person because of their bad repute (insert air quotes). I believe it is quite hypocritical of us. Why can we not allow that one person to have their own space in this world and allow them to choose what to do with that space. What is even worse is that if, for instance, person B manages to speak to this person A, B is also branded with the same hatred! My question is why? What if exactly this brand of human being is what B needs in his/her life? What if that person we, limited by dogma and a backward mindset, consider bad company, is actually a good friend to B. On top of it all, why can’t we accept B for who he/she is instead of who he/she is friends with?
I honestly believe that it is this condemnatory attitude of ours that has split up the entire social fabric into several different sects. We, the overtly censorious, continuously look for faults in others all the while believing that we were born with all things right. So the next time you hear your mind saying, “I Don’t Approve”, teach yourself that you are not supposed to approve! Teach yourself that it is none of your business.
If you feel like one way of life is better than the other way of life, implement it in your days and nights. If you feel like you disagree with a certain method of living, don’t live like that. Find the people you like and like them back for how they are with you. If their way of life is different from yours – accept that it is not your responsibility to comment on it or offer ways to amend it or participate in conversations that condemn it. The message is simple, “Live and let live” – now this is one phrase I’d like to hear more off.