Guest writer Susan Polston closes out our month of articles on humility by sharing her experience at a recent conference for parents who homeschool. A version of this article previously appeared on her blog
Recently, I attended a homeschool conference. Attendance was required for parents wishing to teach a particular writing class this upcoming academic year. Honestly, I did not want to teach the class: the three-day, 18-hour-requirement put me off. However, nobody had stepped up for the position in our particular homeschool community, and the director personally called and offered her chauffeuring services if I were to attend. Okay, then. I signed up. (Actually, she signed me up and sent me the email confirmation.)
The conference was as unpleasant as I had expected. The worst part of it was suffering through some serious sermonizing on how public education was the devil’s realm. The participating crowd got assigned the pronoun we and the parents who send kids to public school got the designation they. The speaker pointed out, not without charisma, the faith and victory of those who had made a decision not to send their children to be educated by “the world.” The audience, in turn, applauded. Everyone was having a very feel-good session time.
I felt like gagging. (Purging, of course, is our body’s natural way of getting rid of stuff that is no good.) I left the pews, went out to the parking lot for a breath of fresh air, cried my eyes out, decided to be polite to these strangers, and went back in to fulfill my teaching requirement.
I would have been so supportive if the speaker had spoken only of the loveliness of homeschooling. Why was her good thing only "good" if the alternative was “bad?” Why couldn’t she just have celebrated her decision to homeschool without putting others down?
I was taught at an early age to not focus on the speck on someone’s eye while having a plank in my own, so I've been wondering since the conference whether I decide that I am superior by deciding someone else is inferior. I must shamefully admit that I compare myself to others often, and that comparing makes me feel awfully good. I get a lot of worth out of mentally one-upping others.
I am who you are not.
Is that how I define myself? Do I give others way too much power by allowing the meaning of my selfhood be based on the meaninglessness of others? Do I feel like a nobody if someone happens to be better at something than I am? Am I actually powerless when I cannot feel joy all by myself? It is SELF-destructive to need to be assured that I'm better than other people?
Yes, some people are in a hurry. Some people only eat organic food. Some people eat casseroles made with canned cream of mushroom soup. Some people homeschool. Some people talk loudly. Some people have nine fingers. Some people have a lot of money. Some people do drugs. But we really do not need to compare ourselves to them in order to affirm ourselves.
I marvel at God when Moses asked him for a name, and God answered, “I am who I am.” That, to me, is someone who knows and loves himself. I think I am going to copy God, because I definitely want to stop being I am who you are not.