The Truth behind Superstition

Many of you would be aware of the ‘twitter counter’. Among many things that this service provides, it also tells you the number of tweets across the globe at a particular point in time on a particular topic. If like the twitter counter, there was a counting device for superstitions, I presume 15-2-2015 would have been a record – it was the day when India played Pakistan in the World Cup. Before the match, Sambit Bal, a cricket journalist had reported that one of his co-passengers on the flight to Adelaide, a middle- aged lady, has revealed during their conversation that her husband had summoned her to the ground from the United States, only because India had not lost a match against Pakistan when both of them had watched the game together.

Sachin Tendulkar supposedly wore his left pad first every time he went out to bat because he was superstitious. Steven Waugh, carried a red handkerchief in his pocket on a match day, while Virender Sehwag started wearing a numberless jersey at one point in time because there was a lack of clarity in which number would bring him luck. You would however be wrong if you imagined that superstitions were limited only to the cricketers. NHL forward Bruce Gardiner would dunk his hockey stick in the toilet to show it who is the boss. Michael Jordan, the great basketballer wore his college shorts underneath his regular NBA shorts in every game he had played. Serena Williams, one of the top Tennis stars of our generation wears the same pair of socks for an entire tournament.

Superstitions are not just common among the sporting folk, but in this educated generation we see superstitions all around us. Peoplekeeptheir‘fingerscrossed’ for good luck; some people ‘touch wood’ for fruition of hope; for generations black cats are generally messengers of bad luck; broken mirrors are supposed to bring seven years of bad luck; and uttering ‘bless you’ after someone sneezes supposedly keeps their soul inside their body. In most Indian homes you see an ash pumpkin tied on the front; little babies are often smeared with a black dot on their face; nimbu- mirchi totka is hung in homes and vehicles – all these are supposed fixes for ‘evil eye’ or ‘drishti’. You’d see most of these things hanging around the homes of the rich and the poor, the illiterate and the educated.

As people who are called to be different from the world, when we think of these superstitions our first response should not be to write them off as a bunch of freaks or nitwits, inferior to us in their beliefs but it has to be to understand the root of those superstitions – not the origin, but the reason why people believe in superstitions.

If you look at all these superstitions and others, you would see one common factor riding over – hope – the hope that the superstition will either bring them good luck or ward off the bad luck.

Hope is one of the foundations of mankind. In fact, almost every action we perform is out of hope and every major decision one makes is because of what one hopes for. Even people who commit suicide, who write in their last letters that ‘they have no hope’ take that drastic step because they hope that suicide will end their pain. It is this very feeling – the state of being hopeful that causes people to be superstitious. These superstitious folk need to put their trust on something tangible to feel good and confident about the daunting task that they are going to face, which is why sportsmen are more superstitious and much of common folks’ superstitions revolve around important days – like marriages, travels, job interviews and so on.

But a believing Christian does not need a feel good bracelet around his wrist to feel confident. As David says, “My soul, wait in silence for God only, for my hope is from Him” (Psalms 62.5, NASB). And he also says “And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in You (Psalms 39.8, NASB). Not only did David role model for hoping in the LORD, but the Christian is also instructed to do so –

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God. . . (1 Timothy 6.17, NIV).

Therefore,our‘feelgoodfactor’ does not come from tangible things but from the LORD himself. The next time you think that crossing your fingers or touching wood is going to bring you good luck or keep bad luck at bay, question your soul – “on whom do you put your trust in?”

If you carefully deduce the reason why many people despite being doubtful, continue to follow superstitions, you would arrive at the conclusion that they are frightened – afraid of the unknown!

Fear is just the other side of hope. But David again calls us to put our trust in the LORD. He says, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me. . .” (Ps. 23.4, NASB). He again reminds us that, “Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me; You will stretch Your hand against the wrath of my enemies, And your right hand will save me” (Psalms 138.7). The most unknown of circumstances and we have the confidence that God is with us.

Superstitions, my friend, are more like habits – which people often don’t think about but do religiously. But every habit is a work, and every work needs to be done to the glory of God – “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10.31, NASB). Let this be in your mind when you are at the forks in your life and let God be the driving force behind you and not your superstitions.

Therefore, our fear is not expelled by keeping the Bible under the pillow on a dark night sleeping alone; but it is expelled by putting our trust in the God of the Bible who promised to be with us, even unto the end of this world. The next time you clench the cross in your home in fear, question yourself – “for whom do you look up to for help?”


The author and his wife Archana live in Chennai. Pradeep works as Insights Director at IMRB International and actively involved in UESI ministry since 1997. He blogs at http://

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