A few days ago, I called someone I considered a friend and who I hadn’t spoken to in some months. Shortly after hello, they asked “What can I DO for you?” My first thought was “I don’t want you to DOanything for me – your high and mightiness!” My mental image was a visual of Nero fiddling while I waited in a corner, patiently, for a moment of his time so he could “do” me a favor. The message I received was “Do you know how important me and my time are?”
Even if we are doing someone a favor, (not that I was seeking a favor) is it imperative to let them know that? Or let the whole world know that? Or elaborate on all the effort you expended to do this favor – given your busy (and important) schedule?
Can you predict the rest of this “interaction”?
Thankfully, it was the first time someone had directed that question to me. Next time I’ll be more prepared (just joking!). I tried to figure out what exactly rubbed me the wrong way and realized it was the question itself and the high handed manner in which it was delivered. I believe creating a class distinction creates in turn – class warfare. It’s a vicious cycle. I feel inferior therefore I say or do something to prove I am superior to someone else. This someone else feels put down and therefore attacked. Their need for survival causes them to react by going on the defensive and therefore on the offensive – creating a battle.
How unfortunate that we seek affirmation from playing class games when at the end of the day love is the one element that can contribute a boost to our self esteem like none other. I am reminded of the story of a little boy who kept trying to interrupt his stressed and busy mother with a crumpled piece of paper claiming he had something to show her. Her response was “not now son – I’m busy”. Later that night after he was in bed, she found that crumpled bit of paper – it read “the bestest Mummy in the hole world”. Sadly, this mother could’ve used that encouragement during that day but unintentionally pushed it away. Yes, trying so hard to heal the lack, we work hard at proving that we are “somebody” and inadvertently ignore the affirmation that would actually make a difference - hurting others in the process.
When we think of words or statements that divide we tend to think of the obvious – name calling, pejorative slurs, etc. However the subtle messages do more damage simply because they are not so overt and therefore easily justified.
Some other statements I have heard that underscore the class distinction:
- “I am meeting with the President of Peru” (or the Archbishop of Canterbury! Or some other celebrity!)
- “My Lexus 570 is now clean” – (ever consider “my car is now clean”?)
- “I am so stressed planning our vacation to Europe” (Impressed anyone?)
- “It is only 10 am and I have already had three meetings – one with big boss so & so, one with my personal secretary…” (And one with my best pals – PRIDE and IMPORTANCE!)
One of my favorite scenes in the movie “The Sound of Music” is when the Baroness questions how the Captain can remove himself from the beauty of his home by traveling. He answers honestly: “Pretending to be madly active I suppose… Activity suggests a life filed with purpose”.
So whether we’re “boss” or “bishop” or not, we who are seeking to fill that need for “Purpose” with activity, or material goods or power while inadvertently creating class distinction and distancing ourselves from what is really important; 1 Corinthians 13:2 tells us: if we have not love, nothing we say or do matters.
Have you experienced subtle “class warfare”? Have you felt “less than” because of it? Do you remember this “Sound of Music” scene? Do you push love and affirmation away? Are you seeking “Purpose”? How?
Share your thoughts…