The other day I was at a really nice restaurant eating some delicious food with a friend of mine. We were commenting on how flavorful the food was and how nice the service was. The next time our waiter came over to our table, we decided to compliment him, as well as the chef. The waiter then proceeded to tell us about how the goal of the restaurant was as to do “x, y, z” things differently because “they wanted to receive a James Beard award.”
And then I just suddenly lost my appetite. Like, I wanted to regurgitate the delicious food I had just ingested. Something inside me had such a strong reaction to his statement: “we are doing this–making good food, giving you excellent service so that we can receive an award.”
Really? That’s why you’re making this food good? It’s not about nourishment or providing healthy and delicious creations to your community?
And I’m really trying not to be judgmental here, because I want to approach this young man and this beautiful restaurant from a place of love for their food and love for the community they have built within.
But what I am trying to do is to point out that our intention for doing things is important. And, I am hoping that this restaurant does not go over to the dark side and turn into one of… them.
Who is “them,” you ask?
I’ll tell you about “them.” To be truthful, there’s all a little bit of us in them. But I need to tell you about “them,” so that you don’t completely cross over to the dark side and fully BECOME one of THEM.
“Them” includes people who work for their egos. Maybe you’re reading this and thinking, “But don’t we all need to work to provide for ourselves and our families and for a source of income?” Yes, yes, we absolutely do. But I’m not talking about that kind of work. I’m talking about the work that says, “HEY LOOK AT ME AND LOOK AT WHAT I’M DOING!”
Why do they do it? Our culture rewards them. They are intermittently given accolades for their hard work and for the attention they receive from others. I mean, after all, they are doing the work, right? They are in there, day after day, giving it their all. They are doing the thing–whatever that thing might be–to the best of their ability. (What’s obviously not being examined, however, is why they are doing it.)
Our culture–our internet–our society LOVES celebrities like Kim Kardashians and Donald Trumps and people who continually put themselves out there, in order to receive something in return. Those people are rewarded frequently with “likes,” “retweets,” and even AWARDS–fame, offices in politics, and 24-7 spotlight and access to microphones to say to the whole world whatever their hearts desire.
I’m not just talking about famous people of course either. I’m talking about those in your community, your church, your workplace, and maybe even in your own family, who are operating from a spirit of “them.” They are working their butts off, and want someone to just pay them in return. They deserve that, right? They do good continually on the outside and for others…AND YET: it’s for the benefit of themselves and what they can receive in return: attention, acknowledgment, awards, etc.
The spirit of them may look shiny and bright and perfect and good, but it’s actually kinda dark underneath. It’s the birthplace of fear and of wanting love and attention from others because deep down there’s some emptiness. There’s a fear of missing out and of losing acknowledgement, since the attention of our culture is so short spanned. The spirit of them measures success with public acknowledgement, words, attention–not growth. It is not resilient. It is not based on how far someone has come. It is based only on what someone is doing right now and how loudly he or she is doing it.
And think about it–can you imagine if all the people in your lives working around you did what they did so that they could receive acknowledgement or attention or an award? What if the main reason I was a teacher was so I could get an award? What if, I showed up day after day and did my best performance in the classroom, for the sole purpose of being recognized? Would you want me to teach your child? HECK TO THE NO. Because what you want is someone who cares about teaching your child because she cares about your child and wants him to be successful.
The people who are truly doing beautiful, good, and right things are not doing them loudly or saying “look at me.” Instead, they are showing up, day after day, and doing the work and minding their own business. They don’t have time to worry about attention, because that is not what they are there for. They are there to do good work– work which positively impacts others and their community regardless of whether or not they receive accolades. They draw attention to ISSUES–not to themselves. They draw the attention to what needs to change for the good of the people–not about what needs to change for them to make their life easier.
And here’s the thing: every beautiful, true, steadfast thing I know of does not ever come from a place of them. Like, ending a war. Walking away from an abusive relationship. Deciding to get sober and stop using drugs. Beginning a non-profit to help children in the community have a safe place to go after school. Standing up for those who cannot fight for themselves, and addressing racism and sexism by taking responsibility. Those are ALL actions that are BEAUTIFUL and TRUE and HAVE DEPTH. They are all hard work, but do not ever come from a place of “them.”
So if we can just do one thing today, I hope it is this: can we acknowledge–whether that means give a voice to, or lift up, or honor– those who are there for the good of the cause, not for the good of themselves? I, for one, am determined to not go down in history as someone who gave a microphone to someone who already had one. I am going to give that metaphorical microphone to those who don’t necessarily think they need it, but who have a voice that needs the volume to be turned up on it because they are seeking change for the greater good.
I heard a quote this week, which I believe sums this sentiment up:
“Our metric for success, it seems to me, is off… There are no reliable statistics for hearts opened or wounds healed.”– Josh Radnor
And guys, I’m all about the hearts opened and wounds healed. Let’s create a community where we can share the microphone with those who do not receive attention, but who are working for open hearts and healing.