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You shall not steal. (Exodus 2:15)

From the quotation above, we find that Jewish wisdom openly declares that everybody has the right to ownership, since ‘you shall not steal’ from another person who owns that thing you desire to take as your own.

The right to own things is not a man made concept, but a divine declaration for humans to observe so we may live in peace together. This is the basis why we need to return what we borrow from another.

The wicked borrows and does not pay back, But the righteous is gracious and gives. (Psalm 37:21)

Don’t be in debt to anyone, except for the obligation to love each other. Whoever loves another person has fulfilled the Law. (Romans 13:8)

These two quotations will have no basis if not for the ‘right to own’ bestowed by the Creator.

However, when we borrow something, our obligation is not just toward the person whom we borrowed from.

Before we borrow anything, we also need to consider whether our ‘future self’ will have the ability and commitment to return what we desire to borrow. When we borrow from someone else, we are essentially borrowing from ourselves, because it is our ‘future self’ who has the burden of returning what is borrowed by our ‘present self’.

Thus, we have an obligation towards our ‘future self’ when we borrow, because this ‘future self’ has a right to own things. If we borrow without having commitment and building the capacity to return the item in the future, then we are in fact stealing from our future selves and putting this other person (our future self) in debt and lack.

There is little wonder why the Lord’s hope and declaration for ancient Jewish people were that ‘Yahweh shall open for you his rich storehouse, even the heavens, to give the rain for your land in its time and to bless all of the work of your hand, and you will lend to many nations; you will not borrow from them. (Deuteronomy 28:12).

So next time you wish to borrow, consider really carefully lest you steal from yourself. All borrowing is in fact borrowing from oneself.

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. (Romans 12:3)

I always wondered how I can ever step out of myself as a third party to look back at myself with sober judgement; an honest evaluation of myself.

No! That’s not me, I can’t be like that!” Doors shut. Often, this will be the voice of resistance and the first line of defense against anyone who disagreed with what I thought of myself to be. Such is a conversation stopper. But we both know, it isn’t just a conversation stopper, it is essentially the easiest path to living in denial if what was said is true. It is at such cross-junctions that I have come to realize that the comments regardless were true or untrue, I can choose to progress and face myself with a dollop of curiosity, a dash of courage and some rationality.

Instead of throwing the ball received into the dustbin, I threw the ball back at that part of me that actually made my spouse, or my close friend, or my mum, or my dad, or my child, or my sister, or my aunt, or just an acquaintance, comment such about me. I started the FBI investigations by recalling my actions and words used, recounted the motivation that made me do what was done, opened up any cards of misunderstanding or misinformation I had. The deeper I searched within my heart, the clearer it became as each little heart in me voiced out their concerns and frustration, each needing some sort of vindication. And like Adam who named his creatures, I started naming them.

As a face is reflected in water, so the heart reflects the real person. (Proverbs 27:19)

Jewish wisdom draws a parallel between water reflecting what can be seen (external) and the heart reflecting what is hidden (internal). I have gradually come to realise that the way I react, the way I think or the way I carry myself and interact with others externally is actually a reflection of the many little hearts internally within me. In other words, because now that I have understood that I am actually made up of many little hearts, each having their own reasoning and voice, the lines between them and I became more clearly defined. This contributed to my neutrality stance; the third party perspective.

The result of having known the above?  I concluded that I, as a individual, can actually take responsible control over these little hearts of mine to my benefit by understanding them. I became a teacher to nurture them where there was a growing lack. You see, it works like this: if I had not been able to differentiate myself from my little hearts, I would not be able to detect which heart needed more attention. And of course it works both ways, if my heart benefited from the guidance given, my entire being benefits too. As King David spoke to his own heart (Psalm 42:11), I spoke to my hearts and opened a path for change:

I reasoned with my Thinking Heart,

comforted my Sad Heart,

saw opportunities and learnt  with my Humble Heart,

formulated numerous ideas with my Creative Heart when disciplining my daughter,

cautioned against breaking any eggs while carrying them with my Conscious Heart,

explained to my Understanding Heart,

waited with my Patient Heart,

felt hopeful under difficult circumstances with my Joyful Heart,

empathised with my Kind Heart,

taught self-control to my Angry Heart,

warned myself not to make use of my Crying Heart to get the things I want,

attempted to clearly express and articulate my feelings and thoughts with my Talking Heart,

composed cheesy love quotes, hugged and planted kisses with my Loving Heart.

Through the lenses of understanding, observing and learning about myself, it further gave me the confidence knowing that I can become a better me. (I am sure my husband would raise both hands and legs to agree!) On hindsight, it was my Curious Heart that made me wonder how I could ever look at myself with sober judgement. Thankfully, no cat was killed. Unexpectedly, I received my comrades for life; my Superhero Hearts.

My son, obey your father’s commands, and don’t neglect your mother’s instruction.
Keep their words always in your heart. Tie them around your neck.
When you walk, their counsel will lead you. When you sleep, they will protect you.
When you wake up, they will advise you. For their command is a lamp and their instruction a light;
their corrective discipline is the way to life.
(Proverbs 6:20-23)

Leadership should have a purpose. It’s purpose is ultimately for the benefit of the followers and the leader.

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother, in order that it may be well with you, and you may live a long time on the earth.” And fathers, do not make your children angry, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:1-3)

Parents are instructed to be equipped with wisdom from God (i.e. parents must learn to follow leadership for their benefit), and impart them to their children. And children must learn to obey their parents, following wisdom for their own benefit.

Why is this the most important step?

Because when children learn to obey good leadership for their own benefit throughout the course of their younger years, they will also gain a sense of the importance and purpose of good leadership. This imparts a rationale and desire (or at the very least reduce the passiveness) to become leaders in the situations they face in life, knowing that leadership is a good thing. Put simply, no one will want to become a leader if they find no reason and purpose in leadership. And the first step to understanding the purpose of leadership is by following.

It is not easy to be leader. This is the first most important step to overcome the hurdle and sustain it – one must acquire a sense of the goodness of leadership. And for children, it begins with their parents taking up the responsibility of wise parentship, and requiring good childrenship from their young followers.

What has money got to do with blood?

In many ways, money is like blood.

Blood is a body fluid in humans and other animals that delivers necessary substances such as nutrients and oxygen to the cells and transports metabolic waste products away from those same cells. Blood is circulated around the body through blood vessels by the pumping action of the heart.

In human society, money largely enables the exchange of goods and services, so that people can provide for what others need, and receive what others can provide for them. On the positive side, money carries the spiritual qualities of humans’ work, creativity, care and concern for one another through it’s flow in the economy.

Next time you need an analogy for money, think of blood and you will realise how precious and important money is for human society and yourself. It helps prevent us from gross greed or dishonesty when dealing with money, knowing that the other party needs that ‘blood’ to provide what we need. Also, it motivates us to participate in society to provide for what others need so this ‘blood’ will flow into us in order that we can continue to function as part of the human race.

My child has two Teachers; Discipline and Pain.

Proverbs 3:21
My child, hold on to wisdom and reason. Don’t let them out of your sight!

Discipline uses wisdom and reason to teach;
to guide;
to warn;
to love;
to renew;
to foresee;
to create knowledge;
to give instructions;
to draw boundaries and keep you safe;
to bring joy to the hearts of Papa and Mama.

Pain is the consequence of actions that comes from a heart that is turned away from Discipline.

It stings and
It creates tears
BUT sorrows will turn into joy when a Foolish heart becomes a Wise heart and a Wise heart becomes a Wiser heart by adding to its learning.

Proverbs 9:9
Instruct the wise and they will be wiser still;
Teach the righteous and they will add to their learning.

Little by little, one step at a time. A brick is built upon another to form a firm foundation.

It creates a platform for free exchanges of ideas, greater interactions, and improved understanding between my child and I.

It creates an opportunity to recap a heart-wrenching lesson we both have learnt and is now capable to laugh at it together.

Proverbs 23:15
My son, if your heart is wise,
My heart will also be glad.

Words. Spoken words are powerful. How powerful? God said and the world came into existence.

Genesis 1:3
And God said,”Let there be light,” and there was light.

What comes through as spoken words, first goes into the heart and mind. What thoughts do we infiltrate into the little hearts and minds of our children? Papa and Mama’s spoken words.

Proverbs 1:8-9
Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.
They will be a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.

Papa’s words protects and brings honour to his child.

Mama’s words strengthens and brings sophistication to her child.

Proverbs 23:16
My innermost being will rejoice when your lips speak what is right.

Words go both ways, to the listener and then back to the speaker; the Creator God, whom in His heart and mind, thought of me when He spoke the world into existence.

Be aware of what ideas and how words are prone to come out of ourselves, and also those that we are prone to receive and hold tightly – like seeds and swords, they have power. They become the most powerful when they no longer need be sown or wielded, ingrained in our actions or non-action.

During my travels to Korat and Bangkok, Thailand in the late 90’s, at many bazaars, one would hear stall owners saying ’Same same’ in their local accent to customers, in the bid to convey that their products were similar in quality but cheaper than the next stall’s.

As years went by, this would become iconic and the ‘Same same’ phrase started appearing on Tshirts and other products. Not long after, someone started tagging the words ‘But Different’ to it, and so became ‘Same Same, But different’. I believe this was meant to be a cheeky response to the shop owners, saying that surely there were some differences. But I think this goes deeper when applied to humanity and cultures. On the positive side, it implies that although we are all humans, we are not identical but unique individuals. However, seen negatively, this emphasizes our differences and separates us, and it needn’t be.

Let’s twist the phrase around, and it makes a big difference – ‘Different, but Same Same’ – that although we are different, there’s so much that are similar among us, in all of the happiness, dullness, sadness, and suffering we encounter. In fact, I believe our differences are superficial but our sameness are fundamental.

“For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.”
– John F Kennedy

“Each day holds a surprise. But only if we expect it can we see, hear, or feel it when it comes to us. Let’s not be afraid to receive each day’s surprise, whether it comes to us as sorrow or as joy. It will open a new place in our hearts, a place where we can welcome new friends and celebrate more fully our shared humanity.”
– Henri Nouwen

Hopefully our same-ness will surprise, interest, shock, awe, tickle or even bring us to tears.

“I came across humanity in Istanbul, and all I know about life comes from Istanbul, and definitely, I am writing about Istanbul. I also love the city because I live there, it has formed me, and it’s me. Of course it is natural. If somebody lived all his life in Delhi, he will write about Delhi.”
– Orhan Pamuk

We need one another to reveal our own humanity. Same same but different but same same!