Last month I saw the Broadway musical “Motown,” for the second time, and was reminded that the music of the Baby Boomers will never die. We were lucky to grow up at a time when great music filled the airways and our favorite stations played the Beatles, the Supremes and Led Zeppelin in the same rotation. In 1972 Carly Simon wrote and recorded one of the classics for us, her hit “You’re So Vain” which included the lyrics, “you probably think this song is about you” was a huge hit. That phrase became familiar to everyone of our generation and resonated with us at a deep level.
We are all “so vain,” we think everything is about us; we think the world is about us.
For most of my life I have heard the Biblical story of the woman at the well. For those of you who might not be familiar with it – Jesus met a woman at a well and had a conversation with her. He told her everything about her past life with multiple husbands. She was impressed and told everyone in her town about Him and they believed in Him. Ok, maybe that’s a little simplistic, but it will suffice for the point I want to make.
An even cursory reading of the text will tell us that it is really not about the woman at all, but rather about Jesus. Yet this encounter is always referred to as “the woman at the well.” My question: What is so egocentric about man that we must make everything about us?
The woman does nothing spectacular. She doesn’t ask penetrating questions, she doesn’t give Jesus extraordinary praise, and she doesn’t give a great evangelistic message to her fellow townsfolk. We’re not even told her name. She is in fact, just a bit player in a grand story. Yet while the main character – Jesus – is doing an amazing thing (telling her, her life story) we in our human-centric view of all of life make it about the woman.
What else do we make about us that shouldn’t be?
A friend recently blew off a dinner engagement with me. My first thought was “that guy is a jerk. How could he ditch me?” I was thinking about “me” and how it affected me, but as I reflected I thought, “he must be really overwhelmed to forget about our dinner. Maybe it’s not about me at all.”
How do we learn to look at life from a perspective that is not our own; to see the world from another’s point of view?
How do we turn what is our natural disposition of looking at ourselves into a more productive disposition that is looking at life from the other person’s perspective? In my practice I often work with teams and help them see each other’s “Core Motivators.” I help them see the world through the lens of the other Core Motivators in the room. As the various team members see the situation through the lens of the other Core Motivators on the team, they get a different perspective on the situation. When they see the different perspectives they are able to communicate better and come to better decisions.
For the last few years we have held an Easter Egg hunt at our house for our friends with little kids. It is a wonderful day of watching the kids run around our yard hunting for hidden chocolate – and I find eggs in our yard the rest of the summer. The most difficult part is getting the parents to stay on our deck and not help their kids; because they want to make it about themselves. Easter is not about the eggs, the bunny, the kids or the parents. Easter is about Jesus, and for some reason that’s hard for us to handle, because anything that’s not about us is hard to handle.
We’re all so vain, we probably think this life is about us.