By Rev Fr Gerald Nwafor
It has been associated with physical health since I was growing up. Wash your hands before eating. My parents and teachers would always hammer this simple advice when we were home from school, church, or playing soccer in central school or CKC. If you did not and you were detected, it will not go well with your backside. Lashes of cane would salute your bottom. Wash your school uniforms on midweeks and weekends.
For us who were children of a schoolteacher, there was no alternative. You would always be reminded by your mother that she would not like anyone to disgrace her in the school by wearing a dirty school uniform. So, the washing happened on Wednesday and Saturday. Early in the morning, we would get up to take our shower at the back of the yard because there was only one bathroom for the twelve families living in the facility.
Therefore, anybody from 17 years down should not use the bathroom for a shower during the morning rush hour. Although there was one Ikechukwu who never obeyed the order and was always fighting the adults in the compound. Anyway, that is a story for another day.
Back to all the physical hygiene, our parents tried to inculcate in us the habits of cleanliness which kept our skin healthy and to some extent our internal organs healthy also. I have come to understand that hygiene is not only about physical needs but needed in other aspects of our life.
Spiritual hygiene should not be about reading a spiritual book but the understanding that we are made up of body and spirit. If we are made up of spirit, how do we take care of the spiritual aspect of our life? The religions of the world have tried to showcase how this can be done but we can equally say that none of them has captured perfectly what should be done to enhance the spiritual aspect of our lives.
There is no gainsaying that they have tried to break some ground on what the spirit needs to grow. One clear example is the value we have in solitude. The introspection and examination of self during quiet and peaceful moments cannot be taken for granted. A book I read a long time ago by Thomas a Kempis called ‘The Imitation of Christ,’ stated significantly, “In solitude and quiet time a devout soul makes progress.” He went on to explain what a devout soul is.
A soul searching for the spirit. A soul searching for hygiene, what is good for me, and what is good for my soul. Socrates said that unexamined life is not worth living. The spirit will examine itself to know what is going on internally.
To buttress this fact Socrates added ‘Man, know thy self.” Therefore, spiritual hygiene is vital to the health of your soul and mind. But in case you find yourself in the Christian religion you will have yourself to blame if you do not take the avalanche of opportunities presented to the Christian faith for the spiritual hygiene in the retreats and the Eucharist.
Emotional hygiene is the most important in the 21st Century because the world is a global village. Social media has made it possible that some of the things you do not want to hear or see would be dumped on you, but I encourage you to ignore most of those things. Often some people do not mean what they write but they believe it will help them to trend, or have more followership in Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
One time I read on the internet that the people in China cook babies and eat them as delicacies. I believed it until I befriended a Chinese person who is against the Chinese Government, and I put the question to him why they eat babies. He said it was a lie and propaganda by some people who were fighting the government also. He said that it was only the one-child policy that irritated him and the brutality by which the government was trying to push their agenda.
So, I suggest that we clean up our emotions and ignore some of the social media information for our sanity. I am not supporting the mainstream media either because they pick and choose what they want to publicize. As the saying goes, “If you listen to the news media you will get misinformed but if you did not listen to the news media you will get uninformed.” So, in either case, we are trapped and there is a limit to what we can do. So, avoid social media information that hurts your emotions, and be wise.
Finally, social hygiene is a choice we must make. We choose our friends. We do not choose our brothers and sisters, but we can choose how we can relate to our family members for our social hygiene. We pick our friends and dump our friends for our social hygiene. Nobody wants a toxic friend around him. And your friends say more about you than you say about yourself.
The saying is simple, “Show me your friends and I would tell you who you are.” It is an age-old adage that has withstood the test of time. Our friends should be a replica of ourselves. If your friend brings pain more than happiness, please think twice about the friendship. Social hygiene should create a healthy relationship and friendly environment when achieved.
When those friends whom you started chasing lizards with have migrated to chasing rats and you have new friends who are encouraging you to remain in the lizard category, please clean up the system and move on. Social hygiene would place you where you belong. Dress the way you want to be addressed.
The locals in our village said, “Follow who knows the road.” Clean your socials always and replace them if necessary. I have friends whom I am still searching for. I have friends who have helped me become who I have become this day, and I have friends who do not have my phone number and number yard-anyi.
Rev Fr Nwafor writes from California, USA