Posted by: alittlesipoflemmonade | May 17, 2012

Continuing the Reflection — Stanza 2

“Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may  become vain or bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.”

I’m not sure I agree with the directive to avoid loud and aggressive people.  I think it would be more useful to society if we consider why some individuals are loud and aggressive.  Maybe they feel threatened.  Perhaps they do not feel heard.  If we seek them out with attentive hearts and ears, we may find them to be much less vexatious than we first perceived.

The rest of the stanza is so important, leaving my mind racing with thoughts.  I know that I will not be able to express all that I want to about it.  So please feel free to start a dialogue with me!  I welcome comments!

First of all, I find it so very hard not to compare myself to others.  Society is almost set up so that it cannot be avoided.  Grade point averages and class rankings are by definition comparisons.  The process to apply for a job requires knowing that someone else will be comparing you to others so you try to think ahead and tailor your resume and interview accordingly.  Searching for a mate invariably leads to wondering how those who have romantic love in their lives are different from you.  It is true, though, that making these comparisons for yourself will easily lead to feelings of vanity, bitterness, and I would also add depression.  If the act of comparison leads you to believe that you are superior to everyone, the step from confidence to arrogance will shrink to a hair’s breadth.  If you see yourself as inferior due to some injustice (real or imagined), bitterness is a logical result.  If you are disheartened by your perceived inferiority, then a cloud of depression may easily settle on your whole perspective.

The obvious argument against the directive is in the situations above.  How can you possibly achieve your professional and personal goals without examining yourself and comparing yourself to others?  The answer, I feel, is in the question.  The acts of self-examination and comparison with others are not necessarily the same things.  Of course it is vital to engage in self-examination.  Are you the kind of person you want to be friends with, respect, and admire?  Are you doing your best to achieve your goals?  What can you do differently to enhance both your life and the lives of others?  I think that those are the questions you ask yourself in a self-examination.  Notice that those questions do not even mention the merits or faults of others.

I caught myself doing this recently while looking at pictures of me with my sorority sisters.  All I could see were my flaws and how great everyone else looked.  On further consideration, however, I acknowledged that I was clean and groomed and my clothes were clean and fit appropriately.  Did I have my contacts in?  No.  Was my hair styled?  No, just brushed.  Considering my renewed battle with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, however, I looked pretty good!  I was there, participating, and socializing with some of my favorite people.  I gave myself a day or so to think about myself objectively before looking at the pictures again.  Now, I can see them and smile, grateful that a fun evening is caught on film to be enjoyed and remembered later.

The very last bit of the stanza is something I think is SUPER important.  I have been the kind of person who felt like I needed to be the best.  I’ve been in a position where I felt like I was the biggest loser.  The truth is almost always a case of somewhere in the middle.  Can I just say that there is a lot of piece of mind to be had when you realize it is almost impossible to be the absolute best at something?  That doesn’t mean that you should settle for less than YOUR best, though.  It’s just important to realize that your best, might be a B.  It might be 1 pound of weight loss a week instead of 2 or 3.  If it turns out that your best puts you in a position over others, be modest, share your talents, and remember to respect THEIR best and do not ask them for more.

In the end, and this is often a lesson in writings, the key is to be the best version of you that you can, and to be happy with that version of you.  After all, if you don’t like yourself, how will anyone else be able to?

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