Pride and Prejudice, and Empathy

Pride and Prejudice is a very popular book that was made into a well-known mini-series, and of course spoofed later as a zombie movie. But zombies aside, you can probably guess from the title what the book is about. While you may not initially know that the plot revolves around the romance of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, you can imagine that it is about pride and prejudice. It’s about something that is very basic to humanity in a world full of sin. While it doesn’t get into harder edge class warfare that people talk about today, or the kinds of prejudice we might immediately think of in our current political climate, it does deal with those issues. Jane Austin wrote about them as she saw them in her time and how they affected her, and that’s all any of us can do. Though I do hope we can all learn to see more than our own immediate circumstances. In this world, pride and prejudice will always be with us but it’s up to us how we deal with them.

I can’t get into corporately as to how any group or race feels because that would be like trying to untangle a mess of Christmas lights that fell into a vat of spaghetti, messy. I can only talk about individuals and even then I know it is likely I will miss something or misunderstand something or misrepresent someone or something. So I will simply share a real situation that I am dealing with and you can draw from it what you will.

I have four kids. My oldest, and only daughter is the writer, actor, singer and artist of the family. My oldest son is the all-around one, he’s good at almost everything, he makes friends easily, he’s good at sports, and he is super helpful at anything I need him to do. He was walking and climbing walls at about nine months old. My middle son is very goofy and full of life and a real character and he’s also very smart and thorough in his schoolwork. My youngest son is “the athlete” he is naturally coordinated and good at any sport he tries and he has boundless energy. If my kids read this there is one immediate problem that will come up right away. My kids won’t see the praises I have for each of them, they will just see what I say about the other kids and how I didn’t say that they can do the stuff I mentioned that their siblings can do. It’s true that they are all multitalented and good at more than just what I mentioned, but everybody has something that makes them special and they don’t always embrace their own specialness in the way we see them.

One of my sons is a very picker eater and we all know his favorite food is chicken nuggets. However, my other son who also loves chicken nuggets but who is a very eclectic eater, feels slighted because he likes chicken nuggets a lot too, and that he may like them just as much, but they’re not his number one favorite food because he’s not as picky. So he feels we don’t recognize how much he likes chicken nuggets, because we say they are the other son’s favorite. In this he feels like we aren’t fully appreciating him. This may seem small to us but not to the person feeling it, otherwise he wouldn’t have mentioned it.

It seems almost every day now, one of our kids feels like one of their siblings is putting them down by not fully appreciating their talents or by lifting up their own talents. We have talked to them non-stop about building others up and not tearing others down. Yet, each one of them feels they are doing it right and it’s just their siblings who are tearing them down. What they don’t understand is that we all feel like this at times. Yes, sometimes kids and even adults will be malicious in how they treat others but quite often it is not intentional. We all want to feel pride in who we are and what we’re capable of doing.

I try to tell my kids that they are all great and we love them and point out the areas where they are gifted, but they quickly forget that when they feel someone else putting them down. God put us together and knows every hair on our heads. We are valued and important to the most powerful being in the universe and beyond. We are all made special with things that make us unique and interesting and valuable.

We all want to be proud of ourselves, but there is a reason the Bible says pride goes before destruction. Even pride in your abilities on a healthy level can be a problem as soon as we feel someone isn’t recognizing us in a way we deserve or think we deserve.

Recently, I filmed a play for my friend who wrote a children’s play about empathy. Two things stood out to me as I filmed it. The first, was just how well it was written. The second, was that while it was written well, it was very much a children’s play. I thought the older kids may feel it is too childish for them. However, looking back I realize that older kids and really even adults need this basic message about empathy, and even if some kids may be too “grown up” to catch the play the same as the younger kids, that it’s good to have this reinforced into their brains, and for the adults too. It’s a very simple but powerful message. You may not know exactly what it’s like to go through something but we all share the same basic feelings, and so we can relate and empathize with others.  No one should scream, “You just don’t understand.” While we may not exactly understand, we can all empathize and should be encouraged to. And we can all do well to remember that someone else being lifted up doesn’t have to be a negative towards us, especially when we remember we all truly do have great value. Yes, there is the obvious exception where people will purposefully tear people down to build themselves up.  We can’t always control that, but we can focus on God and remember who we really are.

What does this have to do with film? Well I’ll say this, whether it’s in life or in a story, it often helps to remember to focus on the basics. In a film, just stick to telling a simple entertaining story. In real life, remember everyone is valuable and worthy and talented and God knows this and so do more people than you realize.

 

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