17.15 – When self-righteousness obscures rightness…
When we share Gita wisdom with others, we sometimes find them arguing for the sake of arguing, holding on to positions that are illogical and indefensible.
We may be tempted to dismiss such people as irrational, but humility will allow us to consider another possibility. They may not be irrational per se, but have become so due to our self-righteousness. They may not be hostile to the truth, but are hostile to our way of presenting the truth. Here’s how this may happen.
Sometimes, when we share Gita wisdom, we may smugly feel that we possess the truth: we know, others don’t; we are wise, others aren’t; we are virtuous, others aren’t. Our self-righteousness makes us so insufferable in the eyes of others that they stick to their wrong position just to have the pleasure of disagreeing with us, just to see us piqued and vexed.
That’s why we need to present the Gita according to its own direction. The Bhagavad-gita (17.15) urges us to speak in a non-agitating way (anudvega karam vakyam). What makes this recommendation for bridge-building especially significant is its position in the verse – it precedes even the recommendation to be truthful (satyam). The implication is that even when we are speaking the truth, we need to first ensure that our speech is appealing, not agitating. This doesn’t mean that we compromise the truth, but that we curb our self-righteousness so that our manner doesn’t bias others against the truth even before they hear it. When we thus give them a fair chance to receive Gita wisdom on its own merit, we will frequently discover that they are much more perceptive and receptive than earlier.
As soon as our ego stops coming between the Gita and its potential recipients, the Gita wins people over by its own irresistible wisdom.