At 9:15pm, I exited the bathroom into the hallway between my kids’ rooms.
After hearing myself thinking two thoughts, I knew something was seriously wrong.
At about 9:00, fifteen minutes earlier, Jane and I had put each kid to bed, read to them, kissed each one goodnight on the kepe (a Yiddish word for head), and turned off their lights.
Jane went to our room to stretch, and I went to our communal bathroom to floss and brush my teeth. (I often think of people’s spiritual lives like stretching and flossing – it’s something they know they should tend to and do, but it often doesn’t get done.)
When I left the bathroom, I saw that both kids’ lights were back on.
About my son, I thought, “Oh, he’s reading. Isn’t that great? He’s so responsible.”
About my daughter, I thought, “What is she trying to get away with, with her lights on?”
About myself, I thought, “Oh, sh*t!”
The Same Thing, Different results
They were doing the exact same thing!
Each had their light on. But about him, on that night I was encouraged. About her, I was concerned. Something was wrong.
And, obviously, the problem was me.
When I was getting my master’s degree in education, I learned about a well-documented phenomenon first documented in the 1960’s, Pygmalion in the Classroom. It goes like this: if you tell a teacher that Stevie is gifted, Stevie will do better in class. Similarly, if you tell a teacher that Stevie has cognitive-learning difficulties, Stevie will perform poorly.
People live into our expectations of them.
Annie wasn’t trying to get away with anything her brother wasn’t trying to get away with. Had I not realized this, I would be blind to the script I had made of her. As horrible as recognizing my bias felt, I was glad I saw it so I could stop scripting my girl as trying to get away with something.
We like the world to be as we believe it to be.
We like to think that we know how it is.
We like when things are as we expect them to be.
It’s not good to make a habit of forcing the world to conform to our vision.
With the exception, of course, when we look to find examples of love.
George Bernard Shaw said,
The only man I know who behaves sensibly is my tailor; he takes my measurements anew each time he sees me. The rest go on with their old measurements and expect me to fit them.
Let me ask you, might that a**hole in your life be an a**hole partly because you are only keeping tabs when he or she is rude? Are you so set on believing them to be rude?
Or might you let go of that and start to keep track of moments they are compassionate?
I’ve written in the past about how the “observer expectancy bias” might keep us seeing God as we have been told God is, and not as God might be.
In that article from 2014, I mused: “If you’ve decided this is the kind of world where God doesn’t make contact with you, well, you’re not going to see God making contact with you.”’
I’m not pushing theology this time.
If you want more from me on the gee-oh-dee word, click here.
The world is co-created by our opinions of it.
Let us be aware of the scripts that we write only to be judgmental when others follow them.
P.S. After re-framing how I look at my thinking about my daughter, she’s been trying to get away with much less.