My Way . . . Or No Way

I have recently become fascinated by the number of people who believe that the world revolves around them.

I’m all for encouraging others to feel good about themselves, and I don’t disagree with trying to engender positivity. I like the concept of helping everyone to build self-esteem.

Yet it seems to me that the current “accept everything” model, together with the idea that it’s not right (not acceptable in a world that accepts everything?) to tell a child that they are in the wrong, is building a world full of selfish entitlement. It’s my way, or no way.

For example, you make arrangements to catch a specific train. That requires you to leave the house by a specific time so as to get to the station on time. Yet the attitude seems to be, “Well the train will just have to wait for me!”

I’m sorry, but when did your entitlement to be late overrule everyone else’s entitlement to be punctual?

Interestingly, such people will often make a major issue over your relaxed arrangements. This is a wonderful experience to behold.

“What time are we leaving?”

“After breakfast.”

“So what time is that?”

“Between 9.00 and 10.00.”

“Can’t you be more specific?”

“Not really. It depends on how long it takes everyone to get ready. But as long as we leave by 10.00 we’ll be fine.”

“So 10.00, then.”

“No. Between 9.00 and 10.00; when we are all ready. But definitely before 10.00 so that we miss the traffic.”

Then the fun starts. Breakfast over, you say:

“Is everyone ready to leave, then?”

“No. I have to get dressed”

“Go on, then. But don’t take too long. You have 15 minutes.”

Twenty minutes later, at 10.05 you go to check.

“Not dressed, yet? We’re going to be late and we’ll get caught in the traffic and miss the train.”

“Well, they’ll just have to wait for me, won’t they. You’ll just have to drive faster.”

And this person who was simply going to die unless you gave them a specific time now holds everything up, expecting everyone else’s life to revolve around him. (Or her.)

It’s one of the hazards of shielding children from the consequences of their actions, or covering for them, getting them out of trouble. They grow up feeling that they are the most important person in the world, and that leads to the same attitude as they age.

The reality is that we are not the most important persons in the world. The only way to be special is to treat everyone else as more special than you. But when we shield people, including children, from the consequences of their actions, we develop a thankless, heartless, entitled generation.

Next time you come across this attitude, whether in yourself or others, resolve, not to shield the perpetrator from the consequences, but to enforce those consequences with all your might. (As long as it’s safe to do so, of course!)

“Yes. I know you wanted to go to the park. And I know I said that we would go as soon as you’re dressed. But, look. The park gates are locked for the night because you took so long to get dressed.”

Be prepared, however, to suffer your own consequences:

“Well if you had told me to get dressed earlier we wouldn’t have been late!”

I know. It seems like you can’t win. But do this enough times and the message will start getting through.

Respect and dignity require mutual consideration, not insistence on our rights, regardless of the consequences to other people.

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Losing Mum – Again

Can there be anything worse for a child than to lose his or her mother? That person who should bond with you, gone from your life, whether by accident or design or sheer selfishness.

For a neglected child, losing the neglectful mother is harsh. She wants a relationship that will last forever, and that will comfort and support her. However, not only did her birth mother remain aloof and oblivious to her and her brother’s needs, but then she and her brother were snatched away from their mother and put in someone else’s care.

And learned to form an attachment to new mum; a mum who did care and who did love her; a mum she could love and trust in return. A mum that helped her and her brother overcome their feelings of abandonment.

And then new mum went to see the doctor. And new mum had to go into hospital.

But new mum never came home, and never will.

And a few days later, she and her brother have to say goodbye to another mum. A mum they could trust and love. Because they knew that she loved them. And they will stand by his side, holding hands with new dad, and crying together.

And death is the ultimate abandonment, with no going back.

And recovery from abandonment has to begin again. But this time, with no new mum to turn to.

Only new dad. And new dad is just as sad. But she knows, and her brother knows, that new dad loves them. And new dad will try to be their new mum, too.

Looking Good

Donkey

I recently hid my blogs for about a week by making them private. It was a bit of an experiment. I wanted to see what it was like for someone who wants to hide what they are writing. It was an interesting experience.

Of course, some people have private blogs for very good reasons. If you want to keep a journal within easy reach, having it online is probably a good thing, but you also want it to be private, with no one else able to read it except maybe your therapist. Or if you are collaborating on a book, or some other such project, you may want to set up a private blog and grant access only to fellow collaborators.

In addition, there are others, who have valid reasons for hiding their blogs. This is often for their own safety, and nothing in this post is intended to minimise their concerns. If you are worried about your safety, but you still wish to share your experiences with a private online community, then that is your choice. Just remember that anything posted online, even in private, could be made public by well-meaning friends. Still, nothing in this post is meant as criticism of your concerns. Your worries are valid and must be respected and protected.

However, during my brief sojourn in blogosphere obscurity, I realised that some people have a more sinister reason to hide their blog from public view: To make themselves look good. Yes. You read that correctly. They want to make themselves look good. How does that work?

There are several ways to make yourself look good. Let’s examine them.

  1. Make yourself look good. The best way to make yourself look good is to make yourself look good. Yes, I am aware that self-praise is no recommendation and I am not advocating telling everyone how good you are. However, if you act in a good way, dress in a good way, speak in a good way, and generally treat others in a good way, with good manners and a quiet and mild spirit, then you will, automatically look good. It’s not about self-praise and saying, “Hey! Look how good I am.” It’s about modesty and humility, often praising others above yourself.
  2. Make yourself look better than someone else. The second way to look good is to compare yourself, favourably, with someone else. This is the syndrome of saying things like, “Well, yes. He is good. But I’m better.” This is false modesty. It pretends to be complimentary, but only serves to provide a false benchmark for how good the speaker thinks he or she is in comparison. Looking good in comparison with someone else is the second worst way to try to look good.
  3. Criticise someone else. This is the worst way to try to look good. It is born from the speaker knowing how badly they are doing. Maybe, even, their conscience is bothering them because they know that they should be doing the good works that their victim does, but they are not willing to put forth the effort. Or, perhaps, they have acted in an unacceptable manner, and want to hide it, but they have to discredit their victim in order to conceal their own shady behaviour. So, rather than opening themselves up to criticism, they develop a smoke screen in the form of criticising other people; often the people who are trying to help them out. The serious critic may even resort to misinformation and half-truths in order to make their supposed antagonist look bad. (They often do this in the offline world, too.) When valid concerns are raised about their behaviour, they try to divert attention from themselves by telling you how bad someone else is. Then, they elicit sympathy from their so-called “friends” who would immediately dump them if they became victims of such abuse. To repeat, this is the worst way to try looking good.

Of course, having a private blog is essential if you want to criticise someone else. That way, you can block them from reading it and they are not likely to find out what you are saying behind their backs. These are things that you could never say to their faces because you would soon be proved wrong, if you did. Also, having a private blog means that you can hand pick your sympathisers. (For “sympathisers” read crones, not cronies.)

However, let’s be realistic, here. It is not always possible to post something positive about everyone. And, sometimes, it helps to point out failings, if this is done in a tactful way. Be honest, have you ever watched a TV talent show and wondered why the family allowed the contestant to make such a fool of themselves?

Yet the old maxim is still very reliable: If you don’t have anything positive to say, don’t say anything. That does not mean being a doormat; nor does it mean failing to point out someone’s faults; nor does it mean saying nothing. It means finding some positive way to offer constructive criticism.

And that brings us back, nicely, to the best way to look good: Always try to be encouraging and positive. If you must point out an error or failing, do it in a positive, constructive way.

And if you do that, you will have no reason to hide your feelings behind a private blog.