Monday, October 15, 2012

See Others as They May Become

During one of his General Conference addresses, President Monson said, "We should develop the capacity to see men not as they are but as they can become[.]"*  He was specifically talking about people who are not yet members of our church, but I think the principle applies to every single interaction we have with each other on this earth.  That is, when we treat people not as they are, but as they can become, they rise to our expectations, and I'd wager to say they usually exceed them.  More important than that, though, is the way we begin to change.  We no longer see people as losers or idiots or imperfect examples; we see them as people who are doing what they can to survive this often frustrating life.  That small and perhaps seemingly insignificant change in perspective has extremely far-reaching effects.  I'll list some examples I've noticed in my own life:
  • The child whose parents listen to him as though he has something important to say will grow to be thoughtful and well-spoken.
  • The woman who is treated as though she will be an incredible wife and mother while a man is dating her, will actually become an incredible wife and mother when they are married.
  • The employee who is valued will become a valuable employee.
I guess I closely identify with process philosophers, who argue that we live in a world of becoming, not a world of being.  That is, change and development are essential.  Reality is not timeless, and substances are not permanent.*  But now I'm getting into the unfamiliar territory of metaphysics, and perhaps I should save that for another day.

*See Others as They May Become.
**Yes, I realize this is somewhat incongruent with the decidedly Latter-day Saint doctrine that we are all children of God -- that at the heart of our natures is something divine.  I think there's a way to reconcile being and becoming, though.  I'll just have to think about it a bit more . . .

Thing I'm thankful for: having fun at work


Blogger Unknown said...

My mind always turns to Victor Frankl when discussing this, especially his comment from "Man's Search for Meaning":

By the spiritual act of love he is enabled to see the essential traits and features in the beloved person; and even more, he sees that which is potential in him, that which is not yet actualized but yet ought to be actualized. Furthermore, by his love, the loving person enables the beloved person to actualize these potentialities. By making him aware of what he can be and of what he should become, he makes these potentialities come true.

8:53 PM  
Blogger cardlady said...

Another profound writing from your heart! I do believe in in a world of becoming rather than being. If it were not so, I would have never evolved into a better person.

1:33 PM  
Blogger Carrie said...

like you said, this can be interpreted many ways. but when i read the title of this post i thought of it in one way in particular... the way that has most affected my life. when chris and i were dating i was still really immature and he was really responsible since he was freshly back from his mission. at the beginning i know he was just dating me for fun (umm, he basically wrote in his journal that he really really liked me but i wasn't wife material) but things got more serious and eventually he was contemplating marrying me (i already knew and was vocal that i wanted to marry him and knew he was the right person for me) and it was a rough time for both of us. y'know the thing that tipped the scales? my amazing father in law. who told my christopher that he should not look at the person i currently was but look at my potential and who i could and would become. and then he found a ring and proposed and we're living happily ever after.

so you can understand how reading your post almost brought me to tears. you're so wise, sara snow.

2:54 PM  
Blogger Sara said...

Carrie! That is wonderful! What a lovely story!

3:57 PM  
Blogger Nathan said...

I really wish I could find it again, but I recently read an article that talked about entitlement, and how destructive that was. Essentially, it gave the opposite conclusion you have drawn: That when we over-compensate and provide too many compliments for children, they'll grow up to be lazy or won't try hard. (The one example the article gives is of a young boy who scored super high on elementary school giftedness tests--and he knew it. So whenever anything came up that was hard for him, he just decided "it wasn't for him" and he gave up.

I'm not (necessarily) trying to disagree with your point, just an interesting thought...

11:47 AM  
Blogger Sara said...

Even though it's my blog, I let others disagree or bring up interesting points, so . . . no worries, Nathan. :)

I will continue with the interesting thoughts, however, and say that I don't think treating others as they may become is the same thing as giving too much praise. I am actually strongly opposed to undue praise, especially compliments such as, "Oh! You made an A? You're so smart!" Lots of parenting research has shown that it's better to say something like, "Oh! You made an A? That's great! You worked so diligently for that grade, and it really paid off!" There's a slight difference that leaves a positive impression on the value of hard work, not on some innate smartness the child has.

At any rate, I think treating people as they may become is different. You're not necessarily showering your adolescent son with an abundance of praise because he's smart; instead, you're just treating him -- and conversing with him -- on a level that implies, "You are smart." Pretty soon, he'll feel it, and he won't have to get praise, he'll just have the confidence that he is how you've treated him his entire life.

4:04 PM  

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