How often have you witnessed a scene similar to the following?
“I went to the beach the other day and got a sunburn on my shoulders, the pain reminds me it was dumb to do but I did have fun.” This is a statement a normal person would make, but when he does he usually is trumped (no pun intended) by another individual who immediately pipes up and says, “Well, when I was at the beach a couple of weeks ago, I got burned so bad that I had to go to the doctor for some special medication plus some Tylenol 3s for the pain.” The first person has been properly minimalized while the second walks away seemingly triumphant as a result of his embellishment of a situation.
Or, how about kids in a play centre talking about their dads; which one is better, stronger etc. Guess where they learned that one-up-man ship attitude.
Ever since I started on this topic of the need of acceptance, I’ve been questioning where we develop these ways of thinking. What is it in us that desires recognition from, or even supremacy over our peers? Why do we go to such great and sometimes ridiculous lengths to assert our worth within a given community? Not only worth, but better than!
If I saw this attitude only in the street folks and not in the general public, I would be able to define it easier, but this way of thinking and acting is prevalent in all levels of society. Don’t believe me? There are even jokes made about kids in a daycare having this kind of discussion, a topic the parents find amusing. People from the streets don’t normally send their kids to daycare.
If we once stop to think about what our children learn and how they learn, would we change our way of behaving? In a discussion around the table we will often criticize another individual, but what our child hears is … we’re better than that or them. Often we do so in all innocence or at least without thinking of the results of our words and how they are spoken. But mostly, they are spoken with a certain amount of arrogance. That arrogance develops in a child’s mind 10 times faster than a whole year of school.
At the same time, we will in discussion praise or elevate someone of a certain position or level of education, deeming that person of greater value. By so doing, we can possibly set a standard or barrier to acceptance without realizing it.
So, with this type of upbringing, (I’m not laying any blame here), when a child faces the world and feels threatened or minimalized in any way, of course their reaction will be to increase their own value by boasting and embellishing. For others, they use physical means to gain value, thus creating bullies. They really don’t want to be worse or less than others, so they do whatever it takes to be, not as good as; better.
When we realize that these attitudes cross all social lines, it should make us a little more empathetic towards those who deem themselves to be of lesser value, whether it be to those on the street or to those living right next door to us.
In order for us to ‘Love our neighbor as ourselves,” we first have to realize that there is no better or worse; more or less, we all have equal value, and should as a result be given every opportunity and encouragement to let their light shine every bit as bright as our own.
Chris Salomons is the kitchen co-ordinator at Potter’s Hands in Red Deer.