“I grew up hearing everyone tell me 'God loves you'. I would say big deal, God loves everybody. That don't make me special! That just proves that God ain't got no taste. " --Rich Mullins
I've come to the conclusion that I don't want my son to grow up thinking he is special.
Or rather I don't want him to grow up with idea that he is more special than anyone else. Every person on this planet is a unique one-of-a-kind creation, an irreplaceable child of God. There are no faceless masses, just countless special individuals. In that sense, he is exactly like everyone else.
We live in an increasingly narcissistic society. We celebrate our every mundane accomplishment on Facebook and Twitter. We are told that we are all winners. We are told that we can be anything we want, regardless of our talent or dedicated effort (or lack thereof) simply if we want it bad enough and "keep trying." We feel entitled to and destined for greatness. We are eager to be on TV, certain that we are so fascinating that others would gladly watch us (or read our blog--ooops!) and be entertained. Indeed we are already stars of our own little movies in our minds, complete with triumphant soundtrack.
But the belief that I'm special, comes with pitfalls, at least when I believe that I am special in comparison to others.
When I think I'm special, I tend to mistreat others. I see myself as all sparkly uniqueness and light, a glowing individuality surrounded by drab drones--worker bees toiling along in lockstep while I bounce along to the beat of my own drum. When I talk I'm fascinating, funny, and entertaining. When they talk, they are too loud, long-winded and boring. The special person sees no need to treat others with any particular respect or deference, but demands such respect as his or her due. I am a harsh judge of others, but go easy on myself.
On the other hand, when I think everyone is special--including me, I tend to treat others well. Such a worldview leads me to take a genuine interest in others--in what they know, what they think, how they feel. I know myself well enough, but I'm eager to discover the unique sparkle in those around me. I honor every person around me, and recognize that they deserve my respect, just as I deserve theirs. Ironically, my awareness of the special-ness of others helps me recognize how very much the same we all are. I recognize that everybody hurts, that everyone laughs, that everyone has hopes and dreams, fears and sins, just like I do. When I think everyone is special, I'm inclined to be cautious in my judgments of others, and strive to set the highest standard for myself--the one person I have the power to control.
When I think I'm special, I tend to feel the rules don't apply to me. I am, after all, a special case with my own unique needs and can't be bothered with all the petty encumbrances that weigh the masses down. I need to be free to be me, free to express myself. The pitfalls that I'm warned about apply to others not me. The restrictions and requirements of life in community are for all those ordinary joes out there, not for me.
When I think that everyone is special--including me, I view myself as part of a community. I recognize that the rules--in terms of the expectations placed upon me as well as the consequences of my actions--apply to me as much as to anyone else. I understand that my freedom--including my freedom to "be myself" ends where the nose of the other guy begins. I understand that tempering my self-expression for the sake of the team in no way lessons my actual individuality.
When I think I'm special, what I want, my mercurial moods and what I "feel like" become the highest moral good. The special person has the diva mentality and cries to those who dare to cross his or her whims: "Don't you know who I am?"
When I think that everyone is special--including me, I recognize that my desires have no greater moral weight than any other persons. I understand that for anything of value to happen in this world, I along with everyone else, must take my turn at putting my shoulder to the wheel and getting it done, regardless of what I happen to feel like at the moment. I understand that everyone has moods and whims, and if we all indulge them all the time, we will quickly have chaos. If someone else must check their desire for instant gratification, than so must I.
When I think I'm special, I am exclusive, a VIP member of a club of one.
When I think everyone is special, including me, I am inclusive, a VIP member of an all-VIP club called humanity.
When I think I'm special, I believe that the greatest love of all is to love myself (and bonus!. . .it's easy to achieve!).
When I think everyone is special, I recognize that love is ever aimed outward, at others. Self-love is essentially an oxymoron--the essence of love is found in service. True love is neither self-adoring nor self-loathing, but self-forgetful. (And such love is if often anything but easy to achieve).
The truth is we are more alike than we might like to believe--we are all dust, all fragile flesh. We are all snowflakes, each completely unique and yet all falling and soon to melt.
Rich Mullins in regard to whether God has discerning "taste" in the humanity He loves:
"And, I don't think He does. Thank God! Because He takes the junk of our lives and makes the most beautiful art.”