Musings on Self-Respect
On Saturday I was people-watching at Walmart, I started on one of my flights of fancy that has culminated in this morning’s post.
Not feeling the best myself that day, I plopped down on a bench and watched the world go by — in all its variety. An observer is privy to such an interesting spectrum: people of all shapes, sizes, skin tones, and moods passed before my eyes.
Have you ever, as you watched people grab their carts and flow through the doors of some Mega-Super-Mart, indulged in extreme make-overs? “What would this person look like if…” I confess, I do this at times.
I have no problem with the variety of people that exist. Nature has given us an entertaining variation of heights and breadths, faces, noses, hair colors. And then individual personalities expand and enhance the potential outward appearance — for better or for worse.
I’ve seen some people who would be outwardly quite attractive, except they look like they’d murder their own mother for a dime. Some men can have such “handsome” potential but look so cold. “How would this person’s looks change if they lost the anger they carry around inside?”
“What would that person look like if they could just lighten up and enjoy the day?” I’m sure I didn’t look the most cheerful that day, either, especially when my stomach felt like it was filled with some kind of slime. Nevertheless, when you’ve been through the mill health-wise it seems lightening up and enjoying life more seems a good plan.
Sometimes I see some young female slouching along the aisle and I wonder, “What would that woman look like if she really cared about herself?” Not that I expect females to turn out in fancy designer fashions or have their hair and makeup salon-perfect. Comfort is great; I go for comfort. And maybe I’m just so old school, but slopping around in tattered sweats, especially with grubby underwear on display, just doesn’t speak well for a healthy self-respect.
Someone may protest indifference. “I don’t care what people think! People can take me as I am. I don’t dress up for anybody.” But I wonder. We don’t have to dress up for others, but isn’t there a point to looking good for our own benefit? Because I want people to respect me? And when we lose interest in caring for our appearance or our surroundings, what’s going on inside?
Then again I see some young things whose appearance is all about appealing to other eyes, usually by displaying as much as possible without getting arrested. I tend to read this as low-self esteem. One gets the impression they have no sense of worth apart from their ability to attract male eyes and ogles. Of course this is exactly how people respond to them, too. Human nature is very predictable. You see passing males looking at them not as a person but as a flashy toy.
When I think of the rhetoric of the feminist movement back in the 60’s, this was one of the main gripes put forth: “We don’t want to be seen as just bodies. We want to be treated as real people, with real brains and a real contribution to make.” When I see so many teen girls today throwing everything out for display, willingly becoming “only bodies,” I have to conclude those feminist ideals have been totally derailed by the Hollywood divas that have arisen since. I think we had more sense of personal worth and less pressure to conform back when I was a teen, before the feminist movement came on strong.
Then again you see quite ordinary down-to-earth people passing your observation point, going about their business. They appear to have made their peace with who they are and how they look. They don’t especially dress to impress anyone around them, yet you can see they look in a mirror before they leave home and want to appear worthy of respect in the eyes of others. They carry themselves as someone of worth — and people do give them respect.
This morning as I thought about self-respect this bright picture popped into my mind. What if a “greeter”could stand at the entrance of the local Mega-Super-Mart and give each person a shot of honest-to-goodness self-respect as they walked through the door? Self-worth, if you will. Not a shot of ego, but a sense of personal value. How much would it change each individual, their appearance, their posture, their behavior? And how long could they hang onto it?
(This is actually what God does for people. Not just a quick shot that evaporates; rather, He lets us know we are valuable to him and that changes everything. Ask any person who’s had an honest encounter with him and they’ll tell you it is so.)
And now I must conclude this two-hour writing practice and get on with my day’s work.