It started with a simple wince.
“You cool man?”
“Yea, I’m good. Long day, that’s all.”
The inquiring soul continued with his query, asking what happened. How long was I upset? Have I talked to anybody about it? Prayed on it? Took deep breaths? Punch air?
“Yo, I’m good! What’s with the 21 questions?”
With that, another human interaction flaw was exposed. The intersection of seeking to help someone and gratifying our own ego is prevalent. The two aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. But many times, the latter takes over. The concept of sympathy is intriguing, because it relies on imagination and the projection of one’s self into the thick of another’s plight. When saying “I sympathize with you,” are you really understanding their situation or just projecting how you would feel if placed in their situation?
Accordingly, any “sympathy” would seem at best well-calculated guesses (where personal experiences become a plus to draw from), and at worse, prime opportunities to inject your own views into a scenario that doesn’t warrant it.
Placing advice and wisdom into somebody’s narrative is a hobby for many of us. “I understand what you’re going through” easily turns into “I know what’s wrong with you and here is the way.” Personal relationships with loved ones are marred by this type of approach as the marriage between being selfless and sympathizing is doomed before it starts. Sometimes people ask for one’s input. Other times, nothing is asked but the high horse cavalcade comes in out of nowhere and starts levying blames and declaring solutions. We’ve all seen and played a role in this movie.
Self-centeredness cloaked in “other” centeredness: a sneaky persona that grows easily and dies hard.
It isn’t the mere appearance of it that’s problematic; it’s our tendency to turn a blind eye to it. The ego is a powerful beast, one that seeks to protect itself without our conscious help. It’s a necessary component of survival, but can prevent us from loving and opening fully. The human race — in this post-racial (can’t type that with a straight face) and post-industrial world — is full-steam in the “I” over “We” stage.
Which brings me back to initial scene of this piece. When it comes to seeking the well-being of folks close to us we think we mean well and confuse goodwill with altruism. Sometimes, unsolicited opinions have benefits, notably when it pertains to holding people accountable to a task previously taken on. Holding people accountable as an adult/mother/teacher/whatever is one thing. Using another person’s trials as ground zero for cleaning off your pedestal is another. As we acquire the knowledge that goes with living in this world, it’s natural to correct and reform where fit.
But yo…you gotta chill.
Oftentimes, the hand that seeks to lift confuses itself for The hand that lifts. Beware of this type, for they are ubiquitous. The God-complex makes itself home within those who let people “know” how close they are to God. God in this case, meaning Right.