Some time ago, I heard a minister on television tell a story designed to demonstrate how little self worth people have. He said, “If I were to offer you a new, crisp, clean $100 bill, free of charge, with no hidden agendas and all you needed to do was reach out, grab the bill and it was yours, would you take it?” All the people in the congregation nodded in a manner that said they would. He went on, “What if I were to take that $100 bill, put it in the street, let cars run over it, let it collect dirt, mud, filth from the street? Would you want it?” Again, the parishioners nodded yes. “Then, what if I were to take that $100 bill which had been run over, soiled from the accumulation of dirt, germs and mud in the street and crumpled it up into a little ball so it was creased and wrinkled? Would you want it then?” Once again, the congregation nodded in an approving fashion. “Why is it”, the minister went on, “that, when it comes to a $100 bill, no matter how soiled, crumpled, wrinkled and dirty it gets, you’d take it. In fact, you’d want it. You’d reach out for it. But, when a human being has the misfortune to be crumpled, creased, soiled, defaced, you turn away? Why is it that the $100 bill has an inherent worth that, no matter how soiled or stained it may be, it holds its value, but when a human being slips and falls, makes mistakes, takes the wrong path in life, we turn our backs on him/her? We reject him, no longer hold him in favor and he loses whatever value he may have had before.”
I’d expand that question, to ask, “Why is it that, when each of you make a mistake, behave in inappropriate manners, fail, fall short of your goals, aren’t loved by someone whose love you desire, or feel inadequate and insufficient, you lose whatever value you may have previously attributed to yourself? Why is it that, if a spouse divorces their partner, she/he feels totally destroyed, betrayed, depressed, inadequate and worthless? Similarly, if a child fails in school, strikes out in a playoff game, or has little or no athletic ability, or isn’t outstanding, academically, why is it that they lose their worth? Not only does this occur in the eyes of others, but more so in your own eyes. Are you only of worth is you produce, succeed or perform?”
Perhaps the real question is, what constitutes worth? Is it based solely on how successful you’ve been, how many “toys” you own, or how you look? You know the politically correct answer, but is it true in politics? Think about it. How many parents feel, express or communicate that their children are okay, because they have worth, that they’re of value just because of who they are? And how many parents state that their child’s out of the box behavior, ideas and feelings are all worthy of being listened to and deserving of love? How many parents expend tremendous effort trying to help their kids conform, fit in the box, color inside the lines and insist that leaves be colored green?
It seems to me that most parents and children alike expend most of their energy and effort trying to be someone who will be loved, accepted and approved of by others, rather than being themselves. They generally live their lives from the outside in, determining their behavior, thoughts and sense of value through the eyes of others. Years ago, on a live TV program, I asked the hostess of the show to close her eyes and open her mouth. She did so, but only with some apprehension. I assured her I wouldn’t do anything that would hurt her or cause her a problem. Then I took a thermometer out of my pocket and put it gently into her mouth. I asked her to close her mouth and open her eyes and she did so. I asked her, “What am I doing?” She said, “Taking my temperature.” I said, “No, that’s wrong. I’m taking my temperature.” “That’s crazy”, she responded, “you’ve got the thermometer in my mouth.” “I know”, I said, “and it does appear crazy. But, the truth be known, most people take their emotional temperature by figuratively putting a thermometer in someone else’s mouth. How they respond to you, how they look at you, what the expression on their face is - whether approving or disapproving, whether they laugh at your jokes or are impressed by your exploits, enchanted by your stories, appreciative of the food you cooked, the way you look, or how you present yourself determines your inherent worth. Therefore, few, if any, of you are willing to expose yourselves openly, vulnerably, with your creases, dirt, flaws and shortcomings and risk the rejection you fear and probably correctly anticipate will be forthcoming.”
The truth is that you’re okay, but you don’t know it. What you need to do, the rest of your life, is resolve to be who you are, to behave on the basis of what you feel and desire and to learn that you’re worth being reached out for. You must come to believe that you are a human being who deserves love, whether your behavior is politically correct or not, whether or not you’re in step with everyone else, march to the same tune, or trapped in the same box. Ironically, having the courage to share who you are and to act accordingly, in compliance with what you feel and desire, is truly what makes you okay. First in your own eyes and then in the eyes of others, who will envy the fact that you’re at peace with being the unique individual you were born to be. Someone who has regard and respect for others, but who maintains a rational self interest, so that you don’t sell yourself short, or only act in a manner you anticipate will be accepted by others, instead of behaving or acting out of what you feel. It all boils down to knowing you are inherently of value and deserve the love you desire.