A Virtuous Vision

 N I N E

A Virtuous Vision

There are many ways to perceive others. We should start choosing the one which magnifies the positive and avoids the negative.

‘Anyone can find the dirt in someone. Be the one that finds the gold.’

—Proverbs 11:27

With car horns blaring around us and crows squawking above us, we were still stuck, but were also edging closer to our destination. We still did not know what was causing the traffic jam. Harry asked if he could switch off the air conditioning, saying, ‘The AC gives me a sore throat sometimes. Is it ok if I open the window a little? I hope you don’t mind.’

  ‘Of course not,’ I replied as we both rolled down the windows a few centimetres. ‘Please continue with what you were saying,’ Harry said.

  I was about to begin speaking when a bumblebee flew into the car. Bees are usually harmless, but in such a confined space, Harry and I both threw our heads back against the head rests and remained completely still. Our yellow-and-black friend buzzed around the dashboard of the car. Mesmerized by the jasmine-scented car fragrance flowing out of the vents, it was probably looking for flowers. When it realized there was no pollen in our vehicle, it flew away merrily, singing the song all bees sing.

  ‘That was close,’ Harry said, now visibly relieved. ‘That bee was huge!’

  ‘I’m just thankful it was not its passionate and angry cousin,’ I said, referring to wasps. ‘The bee teaches us so much,’ I said, as a thought came to my mind. ‘They are always looking for the nectar that flowers possess and avoid lingering where there is dirt. We should be like the bee—always seeing the best in people and choosing to avoid their faults.’

  ‘How is it possible to do that? It seems too tough to me, given how my relationships are,’ Harry replied.

  ‘It all depends on what we look for. I have learnt that there are five different ways we can perceive people in our relationships. Let me tell you a bit more about it.’

Type-1: A Person Who Cannot See the Good at All

The first type of person only sees the bad and tends to magnify it out of proportion. Possibly arising out of spite, dislike or insecurity, they just cannot see any good qualities that another person may possess. As much as you may try to explain to them about someone’s goodness, they refuse to change their opinion. They see a speck of dirt on someone’s face and look at it as if the entire body of the person were bathed in mud.

  I am reminded of a story that I heard some time back. There was a young couple who lived in a nice home in a beautiful neighbourhood. For some reason, the wife just did not like the woman who was their next-door neighbour. One morning, as they were having breakfast, the lady looked out of the window and saw her neighbour hanging clothes on the clothes line.

  ‘Look at that,’ she said to her husband. ‘Did you see how dirty their clothes are even after washing them? I am shocked that a middle-aged housewife like her doesn’t know how to wash clothes clean. Maybe she should go back to her mom’s home and take lessons on how to wash correctly.’

  Her husband listened silently. Every single time her neighbour would hang her clothes to dry, the young woman wouldn’t miss a chance to make some sly comments.

  After a few weeks, the wife saw her neighbour hanging clothes on the clothes line again. But this time something was different.

  ‘Did you see that? Amazing!’ the surprised wife said to her husband, ‘Finally her clothes are clean! I am sure she did not wash them. Someone else must have done it for her!’ Without even getting up from his seat to look at the neighbour’s clothes, the husband responded, ‘You know something, darling? I got up early this morning and washed our windows.’

  Isn’t it a fact that what we see in others depends on the window we are looking through? Washing our own windows can change our vision.

  But Type-1 people don’t even agree that their windows are dirty, what to speak of cleaning them. They not only continue to perceive the clean laundry as dirty but also keep bad-mouthing it.

Type-2: A Person Who Sees Both, the Good and the Bad, But Chooses to Neglect the Good

The second type of person sees the good and bad in people, but make a conscious decision to neglect the good and focus on the bad. Like some people have selective hearing, people of this type have a selective mindset.

  Many of my videos have gone viral over the last few years, but they do not come close to matching the popularity of dog videos. We tend to be infatuated by dogs, so much so that we are left wondering what we did to deserve this faithful friend. An interesting story reveals how devoted dogs are. I don’t know how far it is true, though:

  A man was once buying groceries from a supermarket. He was pushing his trolley whilst looking at the scribbled list his wife gave him when he crashed into another trolley. ‘Sorry!’ he exclaimed automatically. But what he saw shocked him. It was a dog pushing the other shopping trolley and picking up a variety of things! Amazed, he followed the dog around from aisle to aisle, snooping on his every move. The dog picked up fruits, chocolate, bread, pasta; a bag’s worth of provisions. Then he went up to the cashier and pulled out a few dollar bills to make the payment. The monotonous cashier was unfazed. It seemed as if he was familiar with this furry friend. The man then saw that the cashier gave the dog $10 less. The dog barked and tugged at the cashier’s trouser leg until he gave him the correct balance. How is this possible? the man thought, standing there, gobsmacked. I have to find out who owns this intelligent dog!

  The man followed the dog all the way to its home on the fifteenth floor of an apartment block. You guessed it—the dog pressed the correct floor on the elevator, reached a dark-blue door and dropped the shopping. He then began to scratch on the door, making a whining sound to get the attention of his owner. After some time, the owner opened the door and started shouting at the dog. ‘You useless, ungrateful good-for-nothing animal! I hope you got everything!’ Then they both went inside. The man was even more bewildered now. Did the dog’s owner really just say that? Curious, he knocked on the door three times, twiddling his thumbs, anxious to ask the owner why he had shouted at his genius dog. It opened.

  ‘Yes?’ the owner asked rudely.

  ‘Err, sir, I just had a question. I noticed that your dog did all the shopping from the supermarket for you, managed to get the correct change from the cashier, walked all the way back to this building, pressed the right number on the elevator—he is unbelievable! Why did you shout at him? I have to know why.’

  ‘Yes. All that’s normal for him. But this is the second time he’s forgotten the keys to the house. It’s pathetic, I had to get up and open the door!’ The man stood outside the apartment with his mouth wide open in disbelief at what he had just heard.

  Isn’t this the story of our lives? Our friends and family are doing so many good things, but we neglect them and focus solely on the negatives. Wonderful things are occurring all around us, and within the people we love, but this type of person can only think about how the other forgot the key!

Type-3: A Person Who Sees the Good and the Bad and Is Neutral to Both

The next type is a person who sees good and bad in others; s/he doesn’t focus on the bad, but is unconcerned about the good as well. Such people are disconnected from everyone and everything, either due to their self-absorption or indifference, and they just don’t care. It is nearly impossible to find such a person.

Type-4: A Person Who Sees Good and Bad, but Consciously Chooses to Neglect the Bad

Then there are those who see the good and bad but consciously choose to neglect the bad and focus on the good. It is tough for people to live by this as they have to make the conscious effort to stay away from the natural human tendency to see the bad. It can take a lot of work to continuously see the good.

  A recent article about the late industrialist Aditya Birla featured in the ‘Speaking Tree’ section of the Times of India succinctly highlights the characteristics of this type of person.

  Aditya Birla was the CEO of the multibillion-dollar company Hindalco Industries. The article is about one of his senior executives who lost the company millions of dollars by mistake. Any other leader would have fired—if not sued—the employee, but not Aditya Birla. Before he had a meeting with him, Birla took out a notepad and wrote a title at the top: Points in favour of this employee. He then made a list of all the strengths this man had, including the time he had made the company millions of dollars. Aditya Birla had consciously chosen to shift his attention to all the good that this executive had done for the company before making any judgement or dealing with the mistake.

  As news spread throughout the company that Birla did not sack this employee, a philosophy and culture of sensitive dealings evolved within the organization. Another senior executive in the company wrote, ‘Whenever I am tempted to reprimand someone, I convince myself to sit down and write a list of all the good qualities they have. This may not necessarily change my decision, but it helps me put things into perspective and control my anger.’

  To focus on the good and deal with the bad is a principle that can save relationships and help us make the right decision.

Type-5: A Person Who Cannot See the Bad at All; They See the Slightest Good and Magnify It

This stage can only be possible for God, or for one who has reached the heights of spirituality. To see only the good in someone’s character, or to magnify the slight good to the point where it overshadows their ills, is a great feat but one which is impractical for most of us to follow.

  The ideal state for our relationships to flourish is to come to stage four. The human condition is such that we love to gossip about the faults of others; we open our eyes and see only dirt. However, with practice, we can come to the stage of seeing both the good and the bad, and consciously make the decision to focus on the good and neglect the bad.

  ‘I have never heard an explanation like that before!’ Harry exclaimed.

  ‘It’s not my analysis, I heard it from Srila Prabhupada’s followers,’ I replied.

  ‘Can you clarify one thing? How do you totally neglect the bad?’

  ‘Neglecting the bad does not mean that we do not deal with it practically. It just means that we do not allow our mind to focus on and hover over the bad.’

  ‘Exactly!’ Harry seemed to agree with the point vehemently, though I don’t think he fully understood it.

  ‘With my wife, I tend not to neglect the bad, but deal with it . . .’ He paused. ‘I try to deal with it sensitively in my opinion, but it always creates an awkward air around us and leaves her feeling hurt, I think. Then she starts making sarcastic comments to me. Then I tell her not to, but the vicious cycle starts again. It’s frustrating!’


  • Seeing the best in people can be challenging at times, especially when we are in constant proximity to them.
  • We can perceive people in the following five ways:

  1. See only bad and magnify it.
  2. See good and bad, neglect the good and focus on the bad.
  3. See good and bad, and be neutral to both.
  4. See good and bad, choose to focus on the good and neglect the bad.
  5. See the good and magnify it.

  • The ideal state is the fourth stage, in which one’s relationships flourish.
  • Reaching the fourth stage takes consistent hard work and practice.




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