Saturday, August 23, 2014

Don't Be An Asshole: On Being Inconsiderate

Within the pagan community, there is this general acceptance that pagans are inconsiderate, whether it means always running late to events, saying one will do something and then not doing it, and even the expectation that titles or degrees afford one special privileges.  Why is that?  Why do we, as supposedly spiritually evolved beings (or maybe spiritually evolving), fall into these habits?  Why do we accept these habits in others?  Is it a cultural thing?  Is it laziness?  Is it, maybe, ego?

People often laugh when I tell them I live my life by the phrase, "Don't be an asshole."  Yes, it is meant to be humorous, but it is also a very serious phrase.  I have come to learn that "asshole" (as a descriptor of behavior) really can't be defined by a single word or action.  "Asshole" is a spectrum.  This spectrum ranges from habitual tardiness to being the person who always says the things other people are thinking and beyond.  It's certainly perspective based.  That said, what do many of these accepted behaviors mean, when we delve below the surface?  What do they mean spiritually?

For myself, things like "pagan standard time" epitomize asshole behavior.  If someone tells me to meet them at a certain place and at a certain time, I'm not going to lollygag around and show up 30 minutes late if I can help it.  If I get held up, I call or text them and let them know.  I'm not going to wait until the appointed time to decide to start getting dressed and then show up when I am ready.  I'm not going to decide five minutes before that I don't want to go and then just not bother to tell them.  That's rude!  That's inconsiderate.

In the South, this kind of behavior is seriously frowned upon.  The habitually late person finds him or herself no longer invited to things, or worse, told to be there a half hour before everyone is actually supposed to meet.  Where I come from, arriving 'on time' means arriving a few minutes early.  Even more, those who are known for their tardiness are often looked down upon because it is perceived that they do not value those around them. Craft speaking, this tardiness leads to being left out of ritual (or having to be cut in to Circle, which means one is singled out by his or her own actions), missing part of class that may or may not be gone over with you, and the occasional 'talk.'  While the phrase 'harm none' is thrown around a lot, people forget that being inconsiderate can cause harm.

Another 'asshole' thing I find people doing is changing their mind and not bothering to let everyone else in on the secret.  It is fine to change ones mind, but if this decision effects other people, they deserve to know that ones mind in changed.  Nothing is worse than struggling along wondering what is wrong and being told 'nothing', when it really only amounts to the other person having changed their mind.  It's just not cool to leave people hanging because you are uncomfortable with what their reaction might be.  I would also like to add that in this instance, it is also not cool to lie, whether or not it is to spare said person's feelings or not.  The truth is always better.

A third thing that I find to be squarely on the spectrum of 'asshole' within the pagan community is using ones titles or degrees to define what special privileges you should get.  Titles and degrees are bestowed upon us by another due to the amount of book and personal work we have done.  Yes, those things should be recognized, absolutely.  Those things do mean something, however, they don't mean that once we reach a particular place on our path that our arms and legs quit working.  They don't mean that it is okay to bark orders at people.  Those titles and degrees mean that we have come to a place where we have acknowledged and, more importantly, surrendered ourselves to our gods and to the service of them.  In a community dynamic, this also means we have surrendered ourselves to the service of our community.

I inherently give respect to those who are of higher degree than I am, simply because they have done the work necessary to achieve that degree.  In giving this measure of respect, I observe their words and deeds and see just what they expect from those who are below them within the ranks.  I do not turn myself into a slave to their every whim simply because they are, by degree, 'my elder'.  If we are working shoulder to shoulder in the trenches to do a job, I will do my best to make sure they take care of themselves while we get the work done.  Respecting my elders is making sure they don't have to work harder than me.  It isn't sitting them in a chair and treating them as though they are helpless.  Respecting my elders is anticipating that they need something, not because they demand it, but because I respect them enough to want to anticipate it.

I have worked diligently, shoulder to shoulder, with both initiates and non-initiates in spiritual matters.  Titles aside, we come together to do the work of the gods.  In the eyes of the gods, we are all children.  That makes us equals.  We all have more to learn.  We all have more to do.  We all have something to contribute.  Some people are leaders.  Some people follow.  The key is remembering that no matter what, our thoughts, words, and deeds create ripples in the pond.  Are we inspiring others or are we being assholes?