I recently watched the movie Phenomenon and came away very disturbed.
In case you haven’t seen it, don’t read the next six paragraphs. We hate it when someone ruins a movie by telling us what happened.
John Travolta plays a nice average man, nothing special, who lives in the small town he was born in. On the night of his birthday party, he is apparently struck by a blinding light and knocked to the ground.
By the next morning, he is displaying extraordinary abilities. Suddenly there is nothing he cannot know or do.
The townspeople, with three exceptions, the woman he loves, a wise old country doctor, and his best friend, begin to fear him. They cannot accept what is happening without explanations. They feel there must be some catch and they begin desperately searching for it. They also begin ostracizing this gentle man.
Aliens, the great modern bogey men, are invoked. When, it is discovered that George is dying of brain cancer, they begin to distrust all the good he has done. They look for hoaxes, mundane explanations, and the blue smoke and mirrors.
The doctor magnificently played by Robert Duvall, blows up at this denigration. He tells them how petty, mean, and small they are being. He rips away their hypocrisy in an impassioned speech, exposing the herd mentality responsible for condemning his son of the heart.
In the end, even though our hero is dead, his legacy does live on. The townspeople meet a year later to celebrate his life on the anniversary of his birth.
Sounds great doesn’t it? So why am I so unhappy? The fact that the townspeople could not accept the miracle of George while he was alive.
I started thinking (a dangerous pastime). Why do people need to defame others to feel good about themselves? What does that say about modern society? Most importantly, how can I, personally, “stop the madness” within my own small sphere of influence?
I started watching people around me interact. I saw couples, who allegedly love each other, the art of the put down, all in “good fun”. I watched children cut each other to shreds verbally, and they were “best friends”. I noticed parents who claimed to love their children but constantly called them “stupid”, “idiot”, “dummy”.
I listened to myself, and was appalled. I too am a perpetrator/victim of this syndrome. I had fallen into the trap of cutting down other instead of building them up. Worst of all, I cut myself down before anyone else can.
It’s hard to remember day to day simply to thank people. It is harder still to genuinely compliment them for what they do, how they look, or a good idea they have had.
We are not thought how to compliment others, nor are we taught to accept praise from others. I often feel uncomfortable, afraid I will sound phony and insincere when I genuinely wish to thank them.
Another concern is that the person I am complimenting will suspect my motives, that I will be seen as a rah-rah person, that I appear to not really care, or that I am just pretending when I am sincere. In some cases I might be seen as a company stooge.
So, I made an affirmation for myself. I won’t let fear stop me from complimenting others. I won’t let my need to fit in allow me to cut down others. I will genuinely thank people when they help me. I will come to “praise Caesar” not to rip him a new ***hole. “If you can’t say anything nice…”
How about you?
Stars light your path.