Monday, November 7, 2011

Why it's worth stopping the act

It's Heaven... twice!
So... the Goffman post was a bit of a change of pace. I acknowledge that not all of my readers are quite as fascinated with cold, cynical sociologists as I am. Who wouldn't draw all sorts of interest from moral functionalist social theory? Ridiculous! But there WAS actually a point in posting it.

I can't help but think about my interactions with others. Sometimes being completely genuine is difficult because the totality of myself seems dreadfully boring. We each have personal reputations to maintain. Or to build. Or to hope to embody someday. And there's more to our social wants than just a reputation. We want to be loved dearly by others, to know that we are of worth in others' eyes.

To be called for coffee. That's what we want at our deepest level. Maybe not coffee, but to be called for something. It's nice to call others, of course, because any opportunity to share in a friend's company is a beautiful thing. But sometimes a person gets fed up with calling. Maybe he/she wants to be called and thought of. All of us share a desire to be worth another person's thought. That is the deepest need that God has instilled within each and every one of us as communal beings.

So I act. I wear a facade worthy of Shakespearian recognition so as to impress others, using demeanor rituals (BAM! Score one for Goffman!) to try to show how worthy I am of attention. If I am in a crowd of fellow outdoorsmen/women, I loudly proclaim my achievements and latest pieces of outdoor finery/junk. Or in the presence of musicians, you'd think I was a Grammy winner, with my ceaseless boasting and putting down of others' music. But there is one thing that I am learning, with a large degree of difficulty: Trying to show my own worthiness does nothing for my desire for the love of others.

It's in the other type of ritual Goffman postulated, the deference ritual, that we come to satisfy the need for others' respect and care. To review, deference rituals are acts in which we exhibit our respect (or lack thereof) for another person. In respecting others, in loving others, in being willing to sacrifice without expectation of payment, that is where we find the environment in which we can drop the act. If you want others to include you, call them first. And keep doing it. In giving your time, ear, and love to others, you will in turn be loved, even if it takes a long time to feel the results.

I can't say I've mastered this. In reality, I struggle to remember this in my daily interactions. In fact, I am in a near 100% state of not remembering it every single day. And so I pass on to you the opportunity to think about your own personal interactions. Take a peek at my post on Goffman. If reading this post first helps you make sense of it, then feel free to utilize it. But it is worth questioning and praying about how we treat others. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," is a sequential process: If you want the love of others, do unto them first. The rest will take care of itself.

Turning a cynic into a "rock on, man!"


  1. The irony of putting forward the facade people want to see is that who we really are never gets that call for coffee - only the character we've manufactured.

    Your solution is great - Be who we are and make the call ourselves.

  2. Right on Troy! This is great stuff. Authenticity in relationship is more about what we initiate than what we passively inherit by proximity and familiarity. Thanks for the brain food. Mind blown. Must apply lessons learned. :)