Okay folks, I want to open this by saying that this is not a “shame on you” entry. I know I’m going up against things that have existed since the dawn of time, and I don’t pretend that this entry will open eyes and magically change the world. I’m merely trying to raise awareness of unrecognized perils to something that we all do, and hope it will lead to some wisdom in actions. Likely not, but you can’t plead ignorance after reading this entry.
I’ll cut to the chase. We all play favorites. It’s not a “thing” limited to certain places or relationships. We do it all the time and we do it everywhere. It happens in families (you know it does). It happens at work. It happens at church. It happens in clubs, societies, sororities, classrooms, emergency rooms, waiting rooms – hell, I’ve even seen it happen at the county dump when the cute blonde in the sporty car was waved ahead of me to empty trash. Call it “favoritism.” Call it “the good old boy system.” Call it “cliques” or “popularity contests.” Call it whatever you want. It happens.
I know everybody reading this is shouting and saying “oh hell no.” Oh hell yes. Let’s drop the pretense and b.s. for just a few minutes. I promise not to go on too long and you can resume the “formalities” momentarily. Besides, I’m trying to help you here. At least in my own, strip-off-the-nonsense-and-call-it-like-it-is way. And remember, I said we’re all guilty. Me too. You too. Everybody too. Even my birds have their “favorite humans.” This could well precede not only time and space, but all of creation. Partiality happens. There’s no stopping it.
It’s a simple fact that yes, we are predisposed to react more favorably to some people and situations than others. It’s personality – some just go together better than others. It’s also life experience – we relate better to those that have faced similar experiences or have a similar lifestyle. There are complex nature/nurture forces at play that make us more receptive and gracious toward some people than others. Likewise, there are some types we throw up our guard against. I mentioned in the last entry that it miffs me that charisma wins over character so much – that’s because I’ve been the victim of people using charisma to hide serious character flaws several times. Their “God bless us every one” demeanor was hiding a nasty temper bent on utter annihilation. So naturally, I don’t trust “popular” people because I see the red lightsaber just waiting to stab me.
That being said, it happens. Despite modern science, I doubt we ever unlock the secrets of the human personality. It’s too complex and this is one of those things that you can’t account for. We naturally like some people better than others. And conversely, we naturally dislike those that strike us unfavorably. There’s no cure for it. You can’t fix it and people are going to play favorites. It’s going to happen. Now here’s where we run into the problem:
Nobody likes being a “not favorite.” Anytime you complement somebody, anytime you recognize somebody, anytime you put someone on a pedestal or offer public praise or thanks, then other people will feel left out and perceive it as a slight. Because no man is an island and no matter how wonderful Mr. or Miss Wonderful is, it’s unlikely they did it on their own. And, sad to say, some people are very good at getting other people to do everything and having the credit funneled directly to their feet. But that’s another entry for another day. Recognition – and especially public recognition – can open a nasty can of worms that you don’t even know until they’re crawling up your leg. At best, the people you failed to recognize will quit on you, and you’re setting your favorite to the test of picking up the load. At worst, they’ll turn on you. And God help you if it’s a former favorite that you’ve changed your mind about and they know stuff. Ouch.
So does that mean public recognition of good service should be banned? Not at all. I’m just saying that if you want the dog to stay in the yard, then you need to throw them a bone. And not just the head of the pack – everyone in the yard needs a bone. So if you’re going to thank people, be sure that you take off what I call the “swell guy” blinders and open your eyes to everybody. Don’t hold one person up unless you have darn strong justification to do it. And going the extra mile to find out what speaks to a person can also help. Some people don’t want public recognition. My colleagues are smart enough to know an occasional “thank you,” showing interest in my writing, and a bar-b-que luncheon once or twice a year will keep me from squawking like a pissed off parakeet. Which is hilarious, because it didn’t take them long to figure that out and my former colleagues never did get it. Some things are a mystery because you choose not to put forth the two seconds to notice, eh?
My point is this – we all play favorites, but it helps to check yourself every now and then. Showing favoritism is generally considered impolite,; and I know we don’t care for etiquette in the 21st century, but this is a formality that perhaps needs to be reinstated. Did you notice in the paragraph above that I was open to what types I’m not partial to, but I didn’t mention what types I am partial to? No way I’m telling that. But at least you know what raises my defenses, so there’s my attempt at leveling the playing field. Now you know a trigger to avoid with me.
That being said, it might behoove you to quietly put your favorites in your inner circle and exercise discretion in your dealings. Don’t let it show. Throw the non-favorites something every now and then. And for goodness sake, if you do a public acknowledgement and get wind that somebody feels slighted, please take Dale Carnige’s advice to humbly apologize and rectify the situation. Digging in your heels and fighting to justify yourself won’t win friends or influence people. Just say “sorry, I am grateful for you and will be glad to acknowledge it with an apology for leaving you out,” do it, and let it go. That’s character and will close out the situation much faster that “well I did it because they did la de dah de dah and where were you then?”
And as for the rest of us, give us a bar-b-que luncheon. Yea, that’ll shut us up. For a minute.
That’s all today. You may now resume the formalities of pretending like we modern folks don’t do this crap.
Sometimes it can be difficult to know just who the villian is. The fact is that we all have reasons for doing what we do. So what is it that determines who's the hero and who's the villian?
I believe it boils down to one thing: motive. Why does a person do what they do? Is it to benefit themselves, other people, the "greater good of all," or to harm others? These are the basic motivators for all behavior. And sometimes it can be difficult to discern exactly where that motivation lies.
It would be easy to say that pure motives always win the day, but it's not so simple. Sure, it's obivous that a person is a villian when they do something with the intention of hurting other people or sabatoging situations, but such cases are rare, even in fiction, because life isn't so black and white. Sometimes we can believe we're doing what's right, and be dead wrong because we have wrong information, thoughts or motivations. Sometimes what seems dead wrong can be the right thing. And sometimes people do the right thing and are punished for it because they're working with people or situations based on wrong beliefs and motives. The goal isn't the overall good or what's right, but protecting and supporting "the right people." I think anybody that's ever had a job can attest to this one, as office politics exist everywhere and can rear their ugly heads in a number of ways. Yes, there are laws against some things, but you'd be appalled at how people have found ways through loopholes and red tape to get what they want in ways that are morally questionable but still perfectly legal. Anywhere But Here hits on this very theme, and Blurry even hits on it in a way too but showing how thin that line between right and wrong is, and how easy it is to manipulate it.
Pure motive doesn't just mean doing what's morally right. It also means knowing the truth and acting on it, whether you like it or not. It means that sometimes making the decision to do the right thing is the hard decision, because it's not a quick or easy path, and it may not be to our benefit in the short term. I can speak from experience on this one - my job move 2 years ago was definitely done entirely for the benefit of others with no consideration given to what was best for me. It was 100% about what others wanted and what benefited them. I chose to go along because I believed it was right for a greater purpose and that it would work out to benefit me too in the end - but I had to put the desires and needs of others before my own because, well, the situation forced it. Sure, I could have fought it, but I believed that the disadvantage I suffered in the short term would lead to a greater good for everybody, myself included - and it did. It wasn't an easy road but I wouldn't do it differently and in fact, am glad it happened and that things have worked out to put everybody in a better place. So far, it has truly wound out to be one of those situations where everybody did win, and I appreciate how rare that is. But 2 years ago I had no assurances of it, and had to take it on faith that my temporary discomfort and suffering would lead to something better.
I think the bottom line is that the world is full of shades of grey, and the only way to get to what's right is a mix of accepting the truth of reality and using discernment. Unfortunately, such a balance is only struck with time, life experience and wisdom - but it can happen. You just have to be willing to open your eyes, ask the right questions, and accept the answers. If you're wrong, you have to be willing to learn from your mistakes and be able to move on with that valuable wisdom. And for goodness sake, please do NOT keep making the same mistakes over and over. Remember: the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome. It's not gonna happen, folks. Miracles can happen, but not if you're an igit walking in ignorance and selfish motives.
I believe the biggest thing I'd like for you to take from this blog series is that there aren't predetermined limits or roles. We always want to beleive that we're right, but the truth is that in reality we will be both the hero and the villian. It depends on where we find ourselves in the situation and what our motives are - and on who's telling the story.
Thanks for joining me on this impromptu blog series on villians. It's been extremely helpful to me in brainstorming and forming a plan for my next novel, and I hope you've enjoyed being on this journey with me. I'll certainly keep you posted on my progress with this project, my published novels, and everything else in the rabbit hole of my life.
Take care and enjoy the remainder of your weekend.
I had an interesting revelation today. It seems that as my life progresses, I'm continually asked to rise to new levels. This is normal, I suppose. We're supposed to grow and learn so we become better people. That is, after all, the purpose in life, isn't it? To continue to grow into a better person?
I think it is, if we take these steps forward in an effort to rise to new levels; in essence to come closer to the creation God wants us to be. However, I believe there are also times when we're asked to rise to a new level for mere convenience - that is, because where we are isn't convenient to somebody else and our "moving up" or "moving on" is nothing more than putting us in a place that's convenient for someone else.
I suppose I find myself pondering this question because there's been a lot of talk recently on "change" and "responsibility" and what needs to be done to make things better in this tough economy. I even heard something about it on BBN's newscast today. Politicians are still bickering on what's the right way to get America back on track. The problem is, all of them have political agendas and they're scared of making the people funding their campaigns mad - so they dance around the special interest that keep them where they want to be, oftentimes at the expense of lower and middle class Americans.
It's not just an issue at the national level, but at a personal level as well. I've known people that were subjected to job transfers not because of their skills or abilities, but because they ticked the wrong person off and they had to be shuffled because they were the lower person on the totem poll. And they didn't benefit from the change at all. In fact, it was usually a source of anger and frustration, with no personal development whatsoever.
I suppose the real issue here is that we need to explore our motives for why we do what we do. Is it right? Is it for the greater good? Is it for a purpose? And most importantly, is there an honest and pure motive for it? That last question is key, because if your motives are wrong then there's no way things can work out right.
Personally, I want to rise to the level of my best self - not the level where others find it convenient for me to be for their own selfish purposes.
See, this is what happens when I start paying attention to the news again - these entries get deep!
That's all tonight. I hope you're having a good week and that it wraps up well for you. Take care and stay well.