I read a blog the other day and I noticed something down-right peculiar. The writer kept assuming that everyone of his readers were exactly like he. That every bias and opinion and aesthetic that he held was equally shared by all. And so I began to judge this person. And that is a good thing because I have trained myself to hold up a mirror the second I begin to judge anyone.
I ask myself, “Am I like this in any way?” and I am surprised at the high percentage of times that I answer yes to that question. Then I realized, “Oh my GOD!” I shouted it to myself at that very moment, “I do this in spades!” (meaning I do it at the highest level possible, I do it all the time).
I suppose it’s not too much of a surprise since we can only see the world from inside ourselves. Needing to rely on our senses, emotions, ideas and whatnot to experience everything around us is bound to make us a tad self-centric.
I spent a little more time analyzing the phenomenon, I actually assume the world feels exactly like I do on every topic. I remember when I was 16 years old…
It’s three forty-five in the morning, pitch black night outside and Dad is shouting, “Get out of the house!” By the time I regain some semblance of consciousness, he’s pulling me up by the arm and telling me the house is on fire and we have to get out. I sit up into a solid bank of thick, black smoke and start to choke. I cannot see. When I bend down to grab my pajamas I can see again. So I quickly dress in my pajamas and crawl as fast as I can toward the door in order to remain beneath the deathly, blinding, toxic smoke.
It had rained for three days leading up to this November night/morning, but it had froze on this night, so we are standing in bare feet on ice and cold mud watching a fire consume everything we have ever possessed, including my puppy and all our family photos.
To be left owning nothing except a pair of pajamas is probably devastating at any age. I just happen to be alive in that awkward stage of overwhelming adolescent hormones, questions about life and authority, and the need to fit in at any cost.
The community Seventh Day Adventist church starts a collection and the next day we have clothes (however ill-fitting) and food (mostly cans) for the coming Thanksgiving holiday. We move in with my grandparents who, thankfully, have room for us.
The next day I go to school. Mostly to show my parents how strong I am… to show them how resilient and unshakable I am. But when I arrive at school, no one asks me if I am okay. No one consoles me or shows any sympathy and I watch them all going about their business as if nothing has even happened. Never mind the fact that I have not announced my dilemma. That there is no way on earth that any of them can know my circumstances in the first place. I just expect them all to know and to treat me accordingly.
What a wake-up call!
I know this sounds odd, but I suspect there is a default state that we all live from that parallels this outlook. Unless we consciously think about it, we just assume that everyone around us knows what we know and has experienced the lion’s share of what we have experienced.
Hopefully I’m wrong and this is just another perfect example of self-centric thinking. But if I am right, even just for myself, then I have to know who I’m talking to. I have to realize you have NOT had the exact same experiences as me. You do NOT know everything I know. I must be mindful and speak to you with respect for the experiences you may have had which differ from mine and the mindset you may have that differs from mine.
This experience of reading a blog, judging, mirroring, and realizing how it sounds when self-centric generalizations come from others has shown me that we do not really write for others. We write for the benefit of ourselves. We write to better understand ourselves on the deepest levels.
I suspect that even self-help books benefit their authors more than anyone else. If we happen to benefit from reading someone else’s ideas, it’s all the better of course. And I pray that others may benefit from the things I write. But I must remember to ask myself, “Who am I talking to?” and realize it’s not just me.
Can you relate? I would love to hear your take on it. Please leave a comment.