Change, Inspiration

The Big Man in Us

Do you know any person who used to complain about an alcoholic father, but is now an alcoholic? Or, maybe it’s someone who complained about a terrible boss, but is now competing for that title? Maybe you know a woman who always complained about her mother-in-law, but is now doing to her daughter-in-law the very things she used to whine about. I have seen a quote that says “we become what we hate”. However, I disagree. Maybe it’s not that we become what we hate, but that what we hate might be the default “normal” for humans, and we ought to actively seek to be different rather than merely complain.

I recently represented my employer at a contractor’s facility to monitor some required activities over several days. On the second day, while signing out to leave the facility at the end of the workday, a security guard asked to check my bag. I felt slighted at the request as I assumed I ought to be treated with the courtesy due to a “client”. While in transit, I had a rethink about my reaction at the gate, and I realised the guard was merely doing his job and had the right to search my bag, and even my person if he so wished. This realisation got me thinking about the “big men” we so despise in Nigeria.

Nigeria seems to be a country without rules. We see people drive into bank premises while other customers are standing at the gate, under the hot sun, begging for the gate to be opened, so they can walk into the bank and carry out intended transactions. We see people with police or military escorts driving against traffic while others groan in “hold up” inspired by bad roads and poor traffic management policies. We see police officers beating up citizens as if they were goats that ate yams meant for the village gods. We see drivers gladly sprinting on flooded roads, unmindful that pedestrians already had their baths at home with clean water. We see this and more, and complain bitterly.

But what happens when the roulette wheel spins in our favour? We become the people who feel too big to be subjected to a search by an “ordinary security guard”. We become the beasts that beat servants at home. We become the pugilists that redesign our spouses’ faces. We become the ogas and madams that order our police escorts to beat up some unfortunate person who dares speak against us. We become the latecomers who expect the church to reserve a seat for us in the front row because we made a large donation for a programme. We become the boss who flares at a heavily pregnant woman that requests a temporary lighter workload, despite sharing the same gender. We become the narcissists who gladly assert that “what money cannot do; more money will do”.

I think that when we complain about the ills of others, we should be mindful that we do not unwittingly become like them. The challenge is that as we go through life, we consciously or unconsciously mirror the behaviour of those we see around us. To be better, we need to be intentional about not conforming to bad behaviour. For me, I made a mental note to apologise to the security guard the next day about my reaction, and let those at the gate know he was just doing his job. I pray for humility, so that when I become big, I would not be like the “big people” of today.

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