for release Friday June 27, 2003
by Melodie Davis
Everyone Wants To Be Liked
From the chief executive officer to the entry-level office clerk, we all struggle down deep with being liked. Stephen Glass, the New Republic writer who was fired five years ago for routinely making things up, has come back into the spotlight with the launch of his first novel, an autobiographical piece which is fiction. But the striking thing I found in interviews and articles about him was that he says he made up things so his boss or superiors would like him. "I loved the electricity of people liking my stories," he said in an interview on 60 Minutes. "I loved going to story conference meetings and telling people what my story was going to be, and seeing the room excited. I wanted every story to be a home run. I am not making this up. The reason Stephen Glass', or now Jason Blair's fabrications as a reporter for the New York Times, get so much attention in the media is that we writers/editors in the media fear their boldfaced lying sheds doubt on all of us.
Mike Yaconelli, the funny and popular youth speaker for over 42 years says he is always afraid people will not like him. In a video interview, Yaconelli said, "I have terminal insecurity. What I'm afraid of most is that you won't like me. I'm afraid my kids won't like me. I'm afraid that the people watching this tape won't like me. I'm afraid that the crew here won't like me. I mean, you name it I can find something that I'm worried won't like me. It can be an inanimate object; I'm still worried that it won't like me. Mike Yaconelli is worried people won't like him? If Mike feels that way too, we know we're in good company. Remember Sally Fields crowing at the Oscars, "They like me! They like me! Same thing going on. Several months ago in a Bible study, the leader gave each of us a promise to claim. Mine was from Isaiah 43: 4-5, which reads, excerpted, "You are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, do not be afraid, for I am with you. How do we come to feel not only loved, but liked? What if every person felt precious and honored? Too often religion itself is part of the bugaboo that makes people feel like they are eternally not good enough, that they will never measure up.
Yaconelli goes on, "My deep-seated fear comes from the feeling that God doesn't like me. That comes from growing up in a very conservative church where I was basically told God didn't like me. He was always mad at me, frustrated. He always wished I'd do better. I just constantly heard that voice playing to me, you know, a 'B' is fine, coulda got an 'A'. You read your Bible, but you coulda read it more. You just don't measure up. You're not good enough. You're not right. So I'm always afraid I'm not doing good enough. But finally Yaconelli got to the realization that God likes me. Doesn't just love me. He likes me."
"Not good enough" is an easy message to give children, even unwittingly. We want our children to do better than we did-and so we frequently chide them if they don't measure up or if it looks like they're not trying. Sometimes the criticisms may be deserved, but sometimes their "failures" are because we push them even into doing things they don't really want to do or enjoy doing. They choose to play softball and we wish they'd chosen basketball. They pick a clarinet while we always wanted a child who played violin. We compare the grades and SATs of one child against the other-not to be mean but because it is natural and is a measure of judging the school/educational system today.
Longer ago parents were taught that a mortal sin was to allow their children to become prideful. One woman recalls that many people used to admire her long beautiful black curls when she was a child, but in order to keep her from becoming vain, her mother never praised her for anything. This kind of attitude and old-fashioned teaching has hurt many children. The feeling that we can never quite please our parents can be devastating.
Small children who grow up giving and receiving appropriate love usually have a very healthy attitude about themselves and in turn extend love and acceptance to others because that is all they know-at least until they get out in the school world. Even if we as parents sometimes fail them and allow our desires and wants for them to temporarily cloud over their own God-created, beautiful shining spirits, if they truly feel loved they probably will come out okay, even in spite of us!
Write to me at: Melodie Davis, Another Way c/o Name\Address of YOUR newspaper; or e-mail: Melodie@mennomedia.org.
You can also visit Another Way on the Web at www.thirdway.com.
Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three daughters.
NOTES TO EDITORS: text = 803 words; end material = 105 words
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