Yes, the holidays are over. So why am I writing a post referencing Ebeneezer Scrooge from A Christmas Carol?
No, I’m not trying to make you depressed. I’m actually hoping to extend the “goodwill to all” spirit of the holidays to the rest of the year.
We all know Scrooge’s story: he’s a mean old miser who, after being visited by some well-meaning ghosts, changes his ways and becomes a nice guy.
Is this story so familiar it no longer has meaning? Do you think it’s idealistic, smarmy, or both?
Maybe it’s time you take the parable of Scrooge more seriously.
Maybe it’s time for your own “Scrooge moment.”
What is a Scrooge Moment?
When was the last time you really thought about how you feel about people?
Many of us don’t really consider our opinions about life. We don’t think often enough about our beliefs and biases, or their origins.
So many of us just go through life and react to other people out of long-standing habit.
Habits are like autopilot for humans. Habits such as getting regular physical exercise are beneficial. Other habits, like smoking…not so much.
So, when was the last time you thought about, and maybe reconsidered, your habits towards other people? If it’s been awhile, or you’ve never had such reflection, I urge you to do so now.
This very moment can be your own Scrooge Moment. Think, right now, about how you view, and treat, other people. If your people habit is anything like Scrooge BEFORE he met the ghosts, it’s probably time to reconsider that habit.
The Ghost of Christmas Future gave Scrooge an unavoidable “memento mori” experience. Memento mori means “remember you will die.” Old Ebeneezer was reminded of his own mortality and shown how valueless life is if one spends it looking down on other human beings.
Scrooge was forced by supernatural intervention to change his ways. You and I probably won’t be visited by ghosts, but we will all die one day. Remember that. Let that realization give you some perspective.
Sometimes it takes a life-threatening crisis, such as a brush with death, to make us reconsider how we live. But I don’t want you to wait for a close encounter with your mortality before you take stock of your opinion towards other people.
The Scrooge Test
Here’s a quick test: does your “philosophy of life” (whatever form it may take, whether secular or religion-based) involve the scapegoating of other people.
Humanity has long struggled with fear of “The Other,” those outside our “tribe” who may or may not threaten our existence. This is a primal fear, rooted in our more basic mental functions.
But the problem is when we let blind fear continually override our higher, conscious mental state. That’s usually a big contributor to the belief that other people are worth less than ourselves, because they’re reduced to just a potential source of harm.
If your current stance towards people depends heavily on scapegoating others, blaming them for your problems, and seeing other people as “less than” you, it’s time to explore why you feel that way.
If you’ve been hurt by other people in life, it’s understandable that you’re wary. But there are a lot of people in the world, and I’d bet that most of them don’t actively want to do your harm. Make sure you aren’t generalizing and blindly assuming that people are generally “bad” just because you’ve been hurt by a handful of individuals in the past.
The Importance of People
The world isn’t made of dirt and air, it’s made of people.
The Maori have a saying: “What is the most important thing in the world? It is people, it is people, it is people.” This imperative echoes across many ideologies, and can be found in some form in many sources, such as the Talmud (“Save one life, save the world“), the Christian Bible (“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”) and numerous other philosophies.
This “universal” reverence for humanity isn’t a coincidence. Without cohesion and communication between people, suffering increases.
The story of Scrooge reminds us that redemption is possible for all of us, no matter where we are on the journey of life. We can positively change our approach to people, and therefore the world, at any time. All it takes is some self-awareness, and a choice to embrace humanity, warts and all. You’ll be doing yourself, and the world, a huge favor.
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