I really do believe that you don't have to die to get your reward from being a good person, you live it every day. In the Bible, which we read every day under threats of being whacked with a ruler by Sister Mary Joseph (yes, that was her real name, I didn't make it up). I learned that there are three cardinal virtues and the greatest of these is charity, which Sister Mary Joseph told us had a broader meaning, which was "love". And that must be true because she was a nun.
I managed to get all the way through to my Ph.D. without ever taking a Philosophy class because well, because I hate subjects like that, but I did go to one philosophy lecture once because one of my colleagues was giving it and he happened to be a philosophy professor so he couldn't get out of it. It even turned out he liked that stuff. Go figure.
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The one point I remember from his lecture was the "Principle of Charitable Interpretation" which states that if there is more than one way to interpret something someone says, we should choose the one that puts the speaker in the best possible light.
Most of us do the exact opposite of that. Not only don't we show charity towards other people, we don't share it towards ourselves also. Often, I'll be in a meeting and someone will make a comment that I think is rude or kind of a put-down. Maybe,
"Well, not everyone with a Ph.D. is brilliant. There are plenty of dumb people with Ph.D.'s"
"How did you get a job as a consultant?"
Let's take the second comment. I hear that one a lot. I used to take it as questioning my qualifications for being hired, or whether I was worth my fee. I would then get offended. Then I started taking it as an honest request for information and told the person something like,
"I had the Project Director as a student ten years ago and when she was looking for a statistician, she remembered I did that sort of work. I mean, seriously, how many statisticians does the average social worker know? So, she called me and we talked about her project and what her needs were and eventually they offered me a contract."
What I realized is that many people, even if they have what I would think are pretty good jobs, at least think about working for themselves at some time, maybe on those days the boss rubbed them the wrong way, and they are sincerely interested in how one gets started getting clients as a consultant.
Actually, I have not met plenty of dumb people with Ph.D.'s. I have met plenty who aren't brilliant but I can't say I have met any who are dumb. Obnoxious, yes. With less common sense than the average house plant, occasionally. But dumb, no.
I have never heard that comment made by someone who actually had a Ph.D. and so, hence, probably knew a more than usual number of other people who did also. Who I have heard say things like that are people who either:
a) started a Ph.D. but did not finish it, usually because they had family responsibilities or health problems that made it necessary for them to quit school, or
b) don't have any education past high school.
Erich thinks most problems have something to do with low self-esteem and in this case I think he is right. I think folks who make those kind of comments feel a little self-concious about their own education.
Their comments don't really have a thing to do with me personally. In fact, very few things anyone says or does are directed at you because most people are thinking about themselves almost all of the time. The right response when someone asks you a question when they are looking for information is to answer the best you can.
The correct response to the comments like the one about education is to just make a non-commital noise like "Mmmm."
That's one thing they do teach you in doctoral programs in psychology. How to make a lot of responses without really saying anything, like
"Is that so?"
It's supposed to get your patients to continue speaking without feeling judged.
How does all of this reward you? Because you don't spend the next hour or day or week worrying that Joe thinks you're dumb, unqualified or not worth your fee. You don't get mad at Joe and try to get even. You simply give Joe an answer, or the benefit of the doubt, and then you have a cup of tea.