How To Deal With People Who Sell Ideas And Beliefs

Most of us think of salespeople as slick-haired, oily, shysters.  The kind that walk up to you at a dealership and say, “What can I do to get you in that car today?”

But we don’t realize that salespeople aren’t just oily.  They’re everywhere we look, and often we don’t realize that they’re salespeople. 

A job applicant is a salesperson.  He has to present himself as somehow better, more interesting, more desirable, than the other job applicants.

A blogger is a salesperson.  He crafts his work to attract you to his blog, to click his titles and follow his Facebook page.

And then there are the other salespeople: the ideological salespeople.  The people that believe so deeply in something that they will sacrifice their lives to “sell” you their ideology.

These are the people you can trust the least.  Because they will do anything to get you.  Anything to snatch you and turn you into little clones of them.

Most of us think of the silly people on the side of the street who scream at passersby about eternal damnation.  Just like the used car salespeople, they are the obvious examples in our minds, the traditional ones mocked by all of us.

But we don’t realize sometimes that the ideological salespeople are everywhere.  An activist is simply a salesperson who has banded together with other salespeople.  Politicians.  Anyone who tries convincing another person of his political or religious views, really.  Priests.  Rabbis.  Imams.  Vocal atheists.

These are the ideological salespeople of the world.  Ironically, while most of us have very negative views of salespeople, we tend to look at many of the ideological salespeople of the world as “idealistic” and “world-changers”.

But what’s the difference, really?  On a personal level, what’s different?  Like the care salesperson, he is interested in “turning” you… he will do whatever he can to convince you to buy his or her ideological product.

You can’t trust such people.

But what is this, a religious Jew who says you cannot trust rabbis?  A heretic, perhaps?  I don’t think so.

We cannot lose our agency as people.  We cannot lose track of the fact that the journey of life, whether it be buying a car or acquiring a spiritual way of life, is our’s and G-d’s.  Our choices in life must be ours.

Does that mean that a salesperson is a bad person?  No.

Does that mean we should never buy what the salesperson is selling?  No.

We do what all intelligent people do now when a salesperson tells them something is the “best” and we must buy now.  We do our research.  We study, we learn.  We work in our own time.  We realize that perhaps the car he’s selling me is good, but I need one with less mileage.  That the politics he’s selling me is true, but I don’t agree on every position.  That the religion he is selling me is pure and holy, but I don’t have to buy into his particular doctrine to access the G-d of his religion.

They always say the best salespeople truly believe that the product they’re selling is the best product.  They don’t try to trick.  They try to show you why you, the audience that they see as fitting their product, would be better off paying a bit to make your life better.  Despite our view of salespeople, it is the ones that respect us the most that tend to do the best, not the ones that are constantly pulling tricks out of their sleaves.

And that is why we must be careful with who we choose to go into business with, even if what they’re selling is worth buying.

Since becoming religious, I’ve seen both kind of ideological salespeople.  The good and the bad.  The shysters and the noble-hearted.  The ones who will pull any trick they can to get you on their team, because they have reduced their sales into simple numbers, forgetting that ideology and beliefs have never-ending return policies.  And the ones who respect their targets, and would rather lose a sale than betray a person’s agency.

But at the end of the day, we cannot fully trust even the most trustworthy.  We cannot fully buy into anyone’s sale.  Because, at the end of the day, the decision about what to buy, how to buy it, when to buy it, who to buy it from… these decisions are all personal, subjective within the objective.  Decisions that must be our own.  Decisions that must come from deep within.

Because when we make those deeply personal decision in a deeply personal way, when we tap so deep that we ignore all the salespeople, and focus on the truth outside that is guiding us to the truth inside… when we do all that, we’re not just tapping into ourselves.

We’re tapping into G-d.  Into G-d’s eternal vision for our life.  A vision that is objective because it is subjective.  Because G-d is so eternal, so vast, so immeasurable, that your personal truth can fit into an external paradigm while still being your own. And it can coexist peacefully with everyone else’s truths both in and out of your paradigm.

All because you were a smart shopper.  All because you did your research.  All because you trusted yourself and G-d above all.