Art of Motivation | October 2022
Fighting the hermit inside
One of my favorite characters on TV is Ron Swanson from “Parks and Recreation.” He represents that curmudgeon inside of us - the guy who wants to shut out all those annoying people from our lives. If you’re familiar with Ron Swanson, you’ll recognize the irony - he needs the people around him as much as he detests them.
As much as I like Ron, real life doesn’t wrap up in a happy ending regardless of our behavior. It’s natural to shut people out. Paradoxically, it’s also natural to connect. How do you go from disconnection to connection? The answer will serve you (and others) well.
People are strange
Have you ever felt alone in the world? Have you ever been baffled at what people say and how they act and think? Have you ever wanted to just go live in a cabin in the woods all by yourself like Ralph Waldo Emerson?
Let’s face it: people are strange. The Doors knew it and we all know it. Economists like to say that their predictions work if people are rational yet people are not always rational. Each person has a different temperament, personality, disposition, history, flash point, etc. Add to the mix the seven deadly sins plus socio-economic factors and you’ve got a bubbling cauldron of mystery soup. It’s no wonder why it can be tough for us to all just get along.
What’s worse is that our current culture promotes fear of the other side. It’s not that you simply don’t agree with the people around you, you can feel threatened by their lifestyle and choices (politics, anyone?). You can feel as though mobs of people want to impress their beliefs upon you and your kin; as though zombies are chasing you. No wonder you want to escape so badly!
In the movie “That Thing You Do!”, one of the characters laments that he’s alone in his principles. Even Elijah in the Bible felt that way. Obviously, it’s a common theme. But what happens if you succeed in actually isolating yourself from others? You’ll end up hating the small group you’re isolated with or if all by yourself, you’ll end up hating the fact that you don’t have other people to be with.
It helps to know that each person feels that they are justified in their own beliefs. In his book “The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion,” author Jonathan Haidt outlines that each of us feels self-righteous. In fact, it’s the hypocrite who proudly states that he is not self-righteous like all those feeble-minded folks… ironically making him self-righteous (à la Luke 18: 9-14). No one is exempt.
Yet, knowing the fact that everyone is different doesn’t necessarily help us get on the same page. If we can’t be like-minded, then we’re at odds with each other, right? Not quite. We can still be happy in the midst of those strange strangers. It takes some work, though.
It’s not a cult thing, it’s a cultural thing
Here’s the bad news: Anybody who wants to isolate themselves from other people does so due to pride, trust issues, or ignorance of the nature of communal humanity. The pull to do what we want when we want, regardless of others, is inside of each of us. But it impacts everyone negatively.
Here’s the good news: Allowing ourselves to join in and participate in a community - church, work, group, etc. - disciplines our humility and quelches our pride. We sacrifice a part of ourselves to be a part of something bigger. That’s not being in a cult, it’s being a part of a culture.
Here’s more good news: Once we check our egos at the door and allow ourselves to serve those around us, it becomes less about ourselves and more about other people. It’s then that something magical happens; we realize that people, at their core, simply want to be heard, respected, and loved.
For the Ron Swansons of the world
Back to Ron Swanson. Some of the most endearing scenes of “Parks and Rec” are those when his coworkers, who had every right to push Ron away, instead showed Ron love and understanding. In those scenes, Ron softened.
If you’re a curmudgeon, soften up and serve others. If you’re not a curmudgeon yet you know of one, soften up and serve him or her (yes, women can be curmudgeons too). In both cases, you win with love.
Becoming a hermit serves one person poorly. Becoming a servant to humanity serves everyone. Leave the Hermitude to crabs and crabby people.
Thank you for reading and supporting my work. And remember, you’re really supporting your own well-being. You have amazing potential and you can always grow and improve. May you do so today and always.