Thoughts on the need for us to mind our own business
I was hanging out with some friends recently and our discussions veered towards one of our mutual friends. It had been a while since we had heard from him. We all wondered what he had been up to as he hadn’t been active on our WhatsApp group in a while. One of the guys then mentioned that he had heard that our mutual friend had recently lost a family member who many of us knew. We were all surprised. We had assumed that type of news was important enough for our friend to share. As discussions continued, we realised that there were a few other life events that our friend had gone through, but most of us weren’t aware of.
We had believed we were all fairly close but this news threatened that assumption. Why hadn’t he told any of us about these events? Some of us thought that he didn’t consider us as friends the same way we regarded him. Some others felt that we needed to confront him and find out why he hadn’t told us about these life events. Some wondered whether he was even obligated to inform us of his life happenings. Some others couldn’t be bothered, after all, it was his life and he was free to do as he liked.
I was really surprised at our friend’s behaviour. I thought about what I would do if I was in his shoes. I would like to think that I would have confided in at least one person even if I didn’t want to go public. Then, I thought about it again after a few days and realised he didn’t owe it to anyone to share what had happened to him. If he didn’t see a need to mention it to his friends, then maybe there wasn’t a reason to do so.
I often wonder what and how much information we are entitled to receive from other people. Should we even feel entitled to receive any information at all if it doesn’t directly impact our lives? Should there ever be a reason I am all up in another person’s business?
Minding one’s own business implies focusing on your own life and issues, instead of interfering with the affairs of others without their express permission or invitation. It also means refraining from getting involved in all matters which do not directly concern you. Minding your business involves respecting people’s privacy and boundaries. You don’t poke your nose into another person’s life or try to influence their decisions or actions. When you mind your business, you don’t get distracted by situations you do not have reason to get involved with. You live your life in a way that communicates respect for others to live their lives in their way.
It can be hard to mind one’s business in our part of the world. Many people who have grown up in African societies have always lived a closed-knit life. One in which family members and even neighbours, can step in to support people when they feel their help is required. In some of these instances though, boundaries have been breached but people have still carried on throwing their weight behind personal issues without invitation. As our societies have become more Westernised, many have begun to resist unwelcome help because they now realise that there is no reason to make their personal affairs open to all.
It is amazing how some people often feel entitled to information that has no direct bearing on their lives. And when they do get that information, they further take actions that they have no right to take. Many people have gone gung-ho on matters that they had absolutely no business meddling in, and then suffered the consequences for their interference. They often feel betrayed because as far as they were concerned, they were acting in the other person’s best interest. Why would you feel bad simply because someone you had decided to help without invitation, rebuffed your help or maybe even took action that negated your help?
Interfering in arguments and fights between people, offering unsolicited advice or unwelcomed opinions, sharing unverified stories about people, meddling in people’s private affairs, and judging or criticising a person’s lifestyle choices, can all lead to strained relationships and resentment. Even when a person confides in you, you need to be sure whether they would welcome your opinion or they just need a listening ear. Doing anything other than required can create tension in your relationship.
Minding your business helps you maintain trust with others and shows that you have a clear understanding of and respect for boundaries set by others. It also ensures peace of mind as you don’t have to take on unnecessary worries. On the other hand, not minding your business can negatively impact your integrity, damage your relationships, or even result in legal issues depending on the severity of your interference. Now, why would anyone want to invite themselves into affairs they haven’t been invited to, only to suffer negative consequences?
It doesn’t take much to mind one’s business. Just be more sensitive to people’s feelings and recognise when your opinion isn’t required. Listening attentively to both what is said and what is left unsaid is also a good pointer for knowing when your views are unwelcome. Most importantly, if we expect people to respect our boundaries then we have no reason to disrespect theirs. Many people who insert themselves in other people’s business very often cannot tolerate any external involvement in their affairs so why don’t they mind their business?
It’s important to respect other people’s privacy, and only offer assistance or advice when it’s requested or welcomed. But, if we are so focused on respecting personal space, what happens when we believe that we have to step into a matter that we have not been invited to? We believe that the matter may ultimately impact us in some way but our help has not been requested. Actually, when does a matter stop concerning just the person involved and extend to other people? How do we know when to cross the line? Should we even cross the line at all? I am not sure I have the answers to these questions.
Over and above, I would suggest that you should do to others what you would want done to you. Reflect on how you have behaved previously with matters involving other people. Think about how you would feel if someone decided to take a ringside seat in your life and ask yourself if doing so makes you comfortable. We can support people without forcing our way into their lives. We would be better off if we spent more time tending to our personal affairs and honouring people’s personal space instead of playing superheroes. This is the way I see things today.