You may not know this, but the best seat for a 6-foot-5-inch man like myself in a cramped lecture hall is down in the front row.
I learned that when I walked into my first 250-person class my freshman year at Vanderbilt. In that row, I won’t block the board for anyone, and more importantly, I have more legroom than I would in an exit row.
I have proof that it’s comfortable because, very regularly, during 9 a.m. general chemistry, I found myself sliding lower and lower in my seat and dozing off with my head lolling to the side. I didn’t realize it then (probably because I was busy falling asleep), but my choice of seating reflected my view of others and myself.
While I eventually got the hang of staying awake in class, getting decent grades and cramming my way through a challenging program, there was something about my attitude that never changed: my pride. Whenever I tell that story of falling asleep in the front row, there’s a part of me that is unashamedly proud of my laid-back attitude.
Throughout college, I tried to hold on to my carefree attitude that made me a foil for the typical Vanderbilt student. I was surrounded by overachievers — incredible students who found ways to work harder and smarter and get the best grades. The irony is that being less hardworking made me feel better than everyone else. I felt better about myself because I wasn’t living at their frenetic pace. I had balance. It’s ironic but not surprising.
It’s not surprising because, throughout my life, the way I’ve found my identity has been in relation to those around me. It’s crazy to see the way that the pride in my heart could take an area of potential insecurity and fuel a haughty sense of superiority over my peers. But pride and insecurity are two trees that grow from the same root and obscure our perspectives on others as we grow up.
Discussing our growth toward adulthood, Henry Cloud writes, “Becoming an adult is the process of moving out of a ‘one-up/one-down’ relationship and into a peer relationship to other adults.”
“Becoming an adult is the process of moving out of a ‘one-up/one-down’ relationship and into a peer relationship to other adults.”
My issue was that I looked for a “one-up” position over others and was unsure how to connect with them when I couldn’t establish this superiority. Others deal with the challenge of seeing themselves as “less than” their peers. But both of these perspectives deny the equal status that God gives us, and both reject the relationships we could have as equals.
Nothing is wrong with being confident in my ability to rest and find balance, and so much of our temperaments come from our personalities. But an unhealthy pattern can form when I feel good about my own habits by continually putting others down.
Adulthood involves growing into a place of relating to others on a mutual level and not needing to determine whether I stand above them or below them.
It’s been a while since my freshman year with those chemistry classes and those early morning naps with my legs stretched out. Thankfully, I don’t fall asleep like that anymore. And, thankfully, I can continue to grow in knowing who I am without having to constantly measure myself against those around me. God is the One who has the last word on who I am and where I stand, and He’s told me that my height has nothing to do with it.
About the Author: Paul Snider is a missionary kid from Jamaica. He got involved with Cru while attending Vanderbilt University, and now serves with the mk2mk team in Orlando. This summer he will be leading a project to Chiang Mai, Thailand.
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