By Staci Stallings
We all know the types, those people we encounter on a daily basis who feel they have to prove to everyone around them how important they are. They may be a boss, a co-worker, a spouse, a child, a friend, or just someone we happen to know. But whoever they may be, they have a way of getting under our skin with their constant need to make everyone else know they are not to be taken lightly.
I call this the “I-am-important-because…” syndrome. Now, of course, there are a myriad of ways to fill in the blank inherent in that statement. I am important because… I have money, I have power, I have the right car or the right clothes, I pay for dinners or gifts, my name is this, my skin color is that, I have x number of kids, or ex-husbands, or bank accounts, I am a banker, lawyer, teacher, businessman; I give to charity; I'm saved, I'm a (fill in the blank) Catholic, Church of Christ, Mormon, Baptist, Methodist, Pentecostal, etc. or I'm not a (fill in the blank) Catholic, Church of Christ, Mormon, Baptist, Methodist, Pentecostal, etc., I went to college, I have a house on the lake, and on and on and on...
Look closely, and you will see that all of these statements have one thing in common: they are all designed to separate the speaker from the listener. They are designed to divide. Division is the desire of the ego. It says, “For me to have worth, I must diminish your worth.” To me, there is no greater destructive force on earth than this mentality, and yet it runs rampant in our society.
In contemplating the storyline of a book that I wrote and trying to find ways to describe the undercurrents that run through the book, I realized that this is exactly what the characters are doing. The two main characters, Jaxton and Ami, are in an all-out battle with themselves to prove that they are in fact worth something to themselves, their families, and to the world. Because of this, even small tasks that they undertake become massive struggles.
One character, Jaxton, follows the “I am important because I have power” line of thinking. He uses that power to walk over people repeatedly. Truth be told, he himself has been walked over and dismissed by his own family, and he is desperate to prove to his ego that he is worth something. Ami, on the other hand, is a young woman reaching for a dream that she knows will never come true and thus will only prove once and for all that she is exactly what she feels she is in her heart: a failure. Against the persistent drag of the rational side of her ego, she works determinedly to the point of exhaustion trying to prove that her dreams matter, that she deserves to be successful, that she can make something work. The only problem is, she doesn’t really believe this although she does her very best to prove to everyone around her that it is in fact the truth.
There is a counter-point character to these two, Jaxton’s grandfather. Once I started thinking about him, the answer of why he was so different stood out clearly. He doesn’t answer, “I am important because…” Instead, he has come to the realization that, “I am important.” (Period.) And his actions are a consequence of that thinking (not the means to prove it).
He is generous not to prove how wonderful he is but because it’s a natural outgrowth of the fact that he wants to share what he has with others. He is helpful and kind not so that others would be impressed but because that is what’s in his heart, and there is a big difference.
When I was a teacher, there were always students who were less than respectful to the faculty and administration. I would see my fellow teachers go into fits of rage that these students would not give them the respect they deserved. To be honest, these students rarely bothered me. Why? Because my worth was not tied up in what they thought of me. I knew that as a child of the Most High God, I had worth, and I was important--regardless of what they thought.
The other side of this coin is that I did not have to prove my worth to anyone. I wasn't on a power trip like some of my fellow teachers. I didn't have to run a student down to make myself feel better. I was there to help a student begin where they were and reach for the highest accomplishments they could achieve.
That mentality made me a successful teacher, but now I realize how it works in my life every day even now that I am no longer in the classroom. My marriage is stronger because of it, and it is only when I delve into trying to prove how "important I am" that it goes off track. In my business life, my employees don't have to tiptoe around wondering if they are going to hurt my feelings or provoke me because my feelings and moods are not based on external influences. They are based on the fact that God thinks I'm all right, and I don't have to prove that to anyone else.
So, I challenge you to look around your life. In what areas are you fighting to prove you are worth it? And who around you is doing the same thing? For both sides, there's a simple answer to get out of the cycle of division and destruction. It is this: I am important, and so are you. Period. Work toward that, and you will be amazed at the peace that will befall the world you live in.
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