Recently one of my sons sent an email to all his friends and relatives. He was asking us to provide our opinion of him. At first I thought it rather strange, but then I realized he was considering a change of career and was hoping to get an honest consensus of his strengths and weaknesses so he could more confidently move his life in a different direction.
When you stop and think about that, it was a gutsy move. What if some of the responses had been ‘brutally’ honest? My son has not run off and become a hermit; I’m assuming the responses he received were honest, but not brutal. As a parent, I concentrated on his best attributes – which, thankfully, was easy to do.
Christians who are familiar with the Bible know that at one time Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered that question in a way that pleased Jesus… but what if he hadn’t? What if Judas had answered by saying, “You’re the Messiah who will lead our armies into battle against the Romans and anyone else who would try to dominate God’s chosen people!”?
From many accounts I’ve read, that is exactly how Judas would’ve answered the question. However, from my understanding of Jesus – and what he stood for – that answer would not have gone over very well.
I’m not sure if our culture is alone in caring about how others see us, but most of us were raised with mixed messages. On one hand, we were taught to live a good honest life and don’t worry about what other people think. Then we were told to make sure we were wearing clean underwear just in case we were in an accident.
As a result, many of us worry about our self-image. Some people are obsessed by what others might think, but most of us simply give it a momentary thought from time to time.
There are probably a few people who are totally oblivious to this entire idea. They don’t have the slightest concern about how others perceive them. I’m guessing they are a small minority of the population.
I once wrote an article about how men dress with one purpose in mind – to avoid being laughed at by other men. I gave it the title “The Duke Didn’t Do Dockers.” It’s on this blog somewhere. For the most part, my tongue was firmly planted in my cheek as I wrote it, but I must admit there are some truths in the beliefs I expressed.
Anyone who is concerned about his or her legacy and how he or she will be remembered after death, is concerned about the perceptions of others. In some cases, we can be fairly accurate in our estimations. For instance, I’m sure my ex-wife has a dimmer view of me than my current bride. I’d also guess my nephews and nieces see me differently than my own children – I never had to discipline the children of my siblings.
We like to think our friends all think highly of us, but if we’re honest with ourselves, we know that they probably recognize our weaknesses the same as we recognize theirs. Hopefully they’ll continue to like us in spite of our flaws.
I’ve been to the funerals of many friends and relatives. Sometimes the crowds are ‘standing room only’ and at other times one wonders if somehow the word didn’t get out. I often wonder which will be true of my memorial service. Will people crowd into the facility to pay their respects to my family and demonstrate that they will honestly miss me, or will they have more important matters to attend to?
Personally, I think it’s healthy to care about how others see us. If nothing else, it keeps us humble. It also makes us think twice before saying something hurtful. We all have negative thoughts about others, but it’s usually best to keep them to ourselves.
It occurred to me some years ago that while we’re often told to treat our friends as family, we usually treat our friends better! We all too often say things to members of our family that we’d never dream of saying to a friend… unless we didn’t mind losing that friend.
Obviously there are grouches out there who don’t want to get close to others and don’t care how others see them. At least that’s what they’d have us believe. Somehow I believe we all would prefer to be liked. I know I love being surrounded by friends and family.
I’m not going to be as bold as my son; I’m not going to ask you what you think of me. If you told me all sorts of wonderful things, I’d be embarrassed (although it would make me feel pretty good!) On the other hand, some people might be brutally honest. Since I don’t want to hear that side of the argument, I’ll stick with the old ‘ignorance is bliss’ mentality.
In the meantime, here’s a song that has special meaning to me today. I hope you enjoy it.
Feel free to comment on my writing and help me discover the location of the mystery photo. Otherwise, you can keep your thoughts to yourself.