Refrain from Disdain

Joan Marques - Ed.D., MBA.
Burbank, California

Too often we have a tendency to take our own activities serious, and contempt - or simply underestimate - those of others. This attitude may not necessarily come forth from arrogance, but more from unknowingness about the real contents of these others' doings. Yet, it can be experienced as hurtful by the ones scorned, and maybe even lead to the creation of enemies where there was no need for them.

The individual who has a job in which he or she works with his or her hands and body all day, may look down on the activities of the one who performs his or her daily tasks in a suit and tie and never uses his or her physical skills in these executions. The one who earns his or her daily bread as a salesperson may frown upon the satisfaction another one obtains from being a computer technician or a receptionist. Top executives may look down on maintenance workers because they assume that these people are less educated and work in a less stressful environment without really having to use their brains, while, at the same time, maintenance workers may think in a denigrating way about those executives who sit behind their large desks, attend business luncheons, participate in conference calls and net meetings, and lift a pen as their heaviest object on a daily basis. Older workers who earned their positions through years of practice and through life lessons look down on young executives who obtain high positions with little or no experience, but with a college degree. At the same time, the young executives frown upon those "stubborn" older supervisors who seem to oppose every radical innovation and want to continue doing things the way they have been done for the past 50 years.

Disdain: A widespread perceptional disease that is totally uncalled for if we consider the real essence of life. There is a need for every job, task, position, and level of intellect. The world would neither prosper with only educated executives, nor with only physical workers; neither with only strategists, nor with only line personnel; neither with only experience nor with only theoretical knowledge. There is a need for everything, and everybody should have a sufficient level of respect for another's skills.

As diverse as the universe is, with its multiple galaxies; and as diverse as those galaxies are, with their numerous planets, asteroids, and meteorites; and as diverse as the earth is with its assortment of continents and seas, seasons and natural constructions; and as diverse as each continent is, with its multiple countries, islands, and internal waters; and as diverse as each country is, with its social system, cultures, languages, and ethnicities; and as diverse as each social system is with its governmental, commercial, and welfare oriented institutions; and as diverse as each of these institutions is with its various echelons of workers performing a multitude of tasks; that is how diverse human beings are, and how diverse, too, the need for different skills and interests is.

The worker who plows and sows all day may not see the actual spade or plough in the office clerk's hands, but he or she should know that the job of the office clerk is just as important to the continuation of our system, as his or her activities are; the tools may be different, but the goal is the same: survival, contributing to the progress of the system, and obtaining a sense of purpose.

It is so easy to look at the world from our own little cubicle and feel as if we are the only ones with a yoke on our shoulders, especially when we start comparing our lives and tasks to others. However, we should realize that looking from the outside into other people's worlds only gives us a limited view of what is really going on there: the man who drives his ultra luxurious car to work and lives in a mansion may have many sleepless nights about decisions to be made at work, or bills to be paid; and the woman who stays at home to take care of the kids and the house may be much more stressed with her daily tasks than anyone on the outside can possibly imagine.

Disdain would probably end immediately if, by some magical act of fate, we could be placed in the shoes of those we underestimate, if only for a day. However, since that is not possible yet, we have to work on our disdain through communication and the enhancement of our awareness that everyone and everything is as valuable as we consider ourselves to be. Just as we experience our sense of "I": the purpose of what we do, and the sense that our presence makes; that's how others do with theirs. It is this minuscule thought that could help us decrease feelings of reciprocal disdain, and instead elevate our sense of understanding and empathy among each other, enhance our mutual respect, contribute to a greater interconnectedness, and, consequentially, a better world.