IN a previous column some years ago, I wrote about ego, the three-letter word that potentially is the root cause of many of our problems.
And because of ego, others associated or dealing with an egoistic person might suffer as well.
The dictionary defines it as the “I” or self of any person or self-importance, self-admiration and selfdom.
In that column, I mentioned that I once asked one of Malaysia’s top three richest men what made him such a successful businessman and yet such a humble person?
“Do you have ego?” he asked. “If you do, please throw it out of the window. Lots of people have ego that’s bigger than their body,” said the billionaire.
That particular column on ego way back in 2011 was sparked off by a shocking revelation by a then deputy minister that on average, one divorce is registered every 15 minutes among Muslim couples in Malaysia.
I could not confirm if this is a world record but it certainly is mind-boggling and yet it is an issue that doesn’t even prick the national conscience or given the serious attention that it deserves.
Over the years of attending routine religious sermons or talks, I personally have yet to come across the issue of ego being raised although I believe that ego has a lot to do with failed marriages.
One of the many stories about humility, which can be described as the opposite of ego, that I cannot forget was told to me by a Malay taxi driver from Perlis who lives in London and is a British citizen.
While driving me back to Heathrow Airport one day, he said he wished more Malaysians could be as humble as one former senior British Cabinet minister who happens to be his regular passenger.
“He always calls me Sir. When I told him that I feel embarrassed at being addressed as Sir, he says that as a cab driver, I’m doing an honourable job,” he told me.
The taxi driver, whom I shall call by his first name only, Azlan, also said when he got warded at a hospital in London, there would always be care-givers visiting him to give comfort.
And he added: “I don’t think if I am warded in Malaysia, other than my family members or friends, others would pay me such a visit.”
Now and then on the social media we come across videos of people holding senior positions or high status in society giving rough treatment to their subordinates or workers.
The most glaring of such mistreatment happens to domestic maids and recently one person with the Tan Sri honorific was arrested for allegedly abusing his maid.
To me, maid abuse is one of the most abhorrent things that any employer should resort to because if they are unhappy with their maids, just terminate their service and get new ones.
It’s worse if the maid is a foreigner for this could even lead to a diplomatic row between countries.
Back to ego, it’s most reassuring to hear our Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad giving timely advice on this score last Saturday.
It’s quite rare that politicians talk about it but Mahathir for once has broken the ice.
“A good leader will put aside ego and rectify mistakes if it will benefit those he leads,” said the prime minister.
“Ego tends to make people not see their mistakes or refuse to admit them, hence they would not be able to correct them.
“One value you can do without is ego. Some are of the opinion that ego can be positive as it drives you to be competitive. Ego is about self and not those you lead,” he said.
Simply put, by taking Mahathir’s advice that ego is something we can do without, I strongly believe that many of the social problems affecting Malaysians today could be minimised.
And we have to admit that Malaysia is one country that has more than its fair share of social problems. You name it, we have it.
So let’s put aside our ego and be our humble self.