The moment when I truly realized that I am just as important as anyone else was one of those life-changing perspective shifts for me. The lesson started for me one wintery Sunday morning.
We were gathered in the large gym at our church for Sunday School. My boys were quite young at this point and I volunteered at the Sunday School, along with other parents. This week I was working with Nancy, a teacher, and she shared a great exercise that I helped prepare. We had cue cards with a different title or role on each one (e.g. doctor, lawyer, mom, grandpa, teacher, 5 year-old, 18 year-old, movie star, etc.). We put the kids into groups and they had to organize the cue cards in order of the importance of the imaginary person on the card.
This task seemed easy enough for the kids, and they got to work right away. They categorized and organized the people on their cards. Some patterns and similarities emerged across the groups. The older people seemed to rank higher than the young in order of importance. The roles that were assumed to generate more riches tended to take more prominence. Also, authoritative roles came out on top, such as teachers. It seemed natural for the kids to hierarchically map these roles into a linear pattern. Not that it was an easy task though, as they struggled with some of the decisions – my grandpa or a movie star? My grandpa is important to me but a movie star may seem more important to other people. And where did God map into this whole equation?
What about my own life?
I thought about this question of importance in my own life. At work, for example, isn’t the head of the organization more important than the woman who waters the plants at the office every Wednesday?
Don’t I get nervous if I meet up with someone in the elevator who is more senior in position to me at work?
Don’t I get butterflies at the thought of meeting someone famous? I remember one night when my girlfriends and I were in our twenties and my friend’s boyfriend told us Ben Affleck was going to be at a TIFF party we were heading to. There was an inordinate flurry of activity, including last minute shopping trips to get the perfect outfit.
Based on these behaviours it seems to indicate that some of these people and positions seem more important than others.
While the way we live and the way organizations tend to operate makes this hierarchical ordering of importance seem natural, the truth is it’s not.
The answer in the Sunday School game, of course, is that everyone is equally important. Rather than putting one ahead of another, the cue cards belong side-by-side. We are all exactly as important as the person next to us. No more and no less.
It’s true, we all have different roles in life that carry different responsibilities and levels of authority when it comes to making certain decisions. But in terms of our importance as a human being on this Earth, we are all equally important. We are each an important part of the whole. The way we treat each other matters. It can be more influential than a play made by a famous basketball player in a big game, for example.
No one is more important than you are. Let that sink in.
We are all equally important
When this really started to sink in for me, it subtly changed my behaviour and my outlook. I try to treat everyone as an equally important and impactful member of society. For example, I don’t get as nervous when I’m meeting with more senior people in my organization. Honouring their role and time is important, of course, as they make critical decisions. As humans though, I try to connect with them the same way as I do with the lovely woman who waters the plants.
When we honour and respect each other, no matter our roles, age, race, gender, we will see past illusions created in our minds of categorizing each other. Unconscious biases may start to melt away. As we say at the end of a yoga class, the light in me sees the light in you.
Equality and self-love leads to happiness
What about my own importance and relationship with myself? Well, knowing we are equals, I can’t put other people entirely ahead of myself. I’m just as important and deserve to prioritize my own self-care, as I described in a recent blog post. This realization helped develop a self-love that contributes greatly to my inner peace and happiness.
And if you’re wondering how our evening with Ben Affleck went, it turned out to be a disappointing joke by my friend’s boyfriend. He was not at the party. Too bad I hadn’t learned this lesson then!
Have a beautiful week, my friends!
Love. Let Go.