When we were kids, our daydreams were about grandiosity. I dreamed about being the world’s greatest athlete. Others dreamed about being famous singers, entrepreneurs, or movie stars. As we get older, our aspirations change, but for many of us, our desire to be special remains strong. That desire to be special is a positive in some people, providing them with the motivation to work hard and achieve things, but the need to feel superior to other people is also at the root of many of our divisions. At the risk of offending a few readers, below is a short list of how our desire to be special is actually making our society worse and how I hope that this holiday season we try to be a little more supportive and tolerant of the people in our circle.
Social Justice Warriors. Political correctness is a turn-off to a lot of people because some take it too far. They think they are morally superior to everyone else. The effort to create a more tolerant and inclusive society is a good thing, but the movement gets a lot of resistance because many of the most vocal advocates are self-righteous and plain obnoxious. Their desire to be special supersedes the objectives for which they are fighting. The sad part is most people support standards that create a fair and just society, they just hate being judged and spoken down to.
Conspiracy Theorists. People who believe in conspiracies believe they are smarter than all of us “sheep” who only believe what we are told. They claim to do their own research or have a friend on the inside who knows the real truth. They can rationalize their theories a hundred different ways but in the end, they want to believe they are special. Yes, we should all think for ourselves but we should reject fantastic theories that conflict with science and logic. The advance of social media has made it a thousand times easier for conspiracy theories to proliferate, giving more fuel to those who are willing to undermine public confidence in our most valued institutions so they can feel smarter than everyone else.
Religious Zealots. This is a tough one because religion is not something many people are willing to question. I was raised very religious and hold many of those values close to my heart, but being raised in the church also exposed me to the phonies and the zealots. They believe they are God’s favorite because their religion or method of worship is the only true way. Some people are drawn to religion for all of the right reasons, but others get completely carried away with the feeling of superiority. My sisters used to call these people HTT, short for “Holier Than Thou”. The HTT crowd has pushed many young people away from the church, which is sad and unfortunate.
This holiday season, try doing a little self-reflection and ask yourself whether your desire to be special is helping or hurting the things and the people you love and support. Empathy is an undervalued virtue. We can all do well while also being good to one another.