Instead of asking people, “How do you feel?” or “What is going on in your life?” and patiently waiting for responses, some of us presume we can read the minds of others or tell what others are thinking or feeling. In our insensitive misjudgment, we put others down and slice them into little bits, all to demonstrate domination or that we know them more than they know themselves.
Do not let anybody belittle or misrepresent you, not even your parents. After all, even Nancy Pelosi did not let Trump belittle or mischaracterize her. “Mr. President,” she said in an epic 2018 confrontation with Trump at the Whitehouse, “do not belittle the strength I bring to this meeting…”
Trump’s attempt to belittle Pelosi is similar to how some of us try to belittle anybody we meet, as illustrated by this short story I want to share with you. Chidi and Chibiko met by chance on a shady corner in the town market of Afor Ekengwu, Osina, where both men had gone early in the morning to book kegs of fresh palm wine. “My friend, I am so excited to see you after so many years,” Chidi said to Chibiko. For what seemed to have been an eternity, both men were locked in a handshake, shaking and adjusting their shoulders as men from Akokwa do, intentionally attracting the eyes of onlookers.
Once the initial adrenaline rush and emotionally charged greetings were over, Chibiko changed his tone and went off on his friend. “Naa men!,” Chibiko exclaimed. “You are still the same carefree, dress-down short fellow that I knew all my life.” Pointing in Chidi’s direction, he continued, “Look at those grey hairs. They have invaded your head like poisonous mushrooms. Get tidy, pal: use some hair dye. God almighty! You have not changed. You are the same guy who never cared for anybody in the world–not friends, not neighbors. Not even your parents. Fame has never been your thing. One thing and only one thing interests you: reading stupid books about stupid things.” Beaten down, Chidi was short of words to respond.
Unfortunately, I bet many readers may have encountered people like Chibiko.
Chibiko’s soul harbors what I call the Belittling and Mischaracterization Spirit (BMS), which is more active in some people than others. The two components of BMS exist individually or together. In souls where it runs uncontrollably, BMS gives people the idea that they know what another person is thinking, how other people had lived their lives in the past, and what they would do in the future.
People who have BMS use words to simultaneously lower others while elevating themselves. They like to talk about all they have achieved and what they have accomplished but are never willing to hear what their interlocutor is thinking or feeling. Staying in the little world they created for others gives them joy. Making them change what they think of others aggravates them. Conversely, they are emboldened by their false assessment of others, which enables them to go after another person.
In case you forgot: in the real world, people count their triumphs over others. So, as Nancy Pelosi did to Trump, do not let anybody belittle you and get away with it. Refute them. Correct them. And if all fails, walk away from them in protest.
As evolutionary biologists would posit, most behaviors in humans, including belittling and mischaracterizing, originate from our ancestral animal heritage. Before a lion attacks a buffalo, he must first remind himself that he has enough strength and quickness to overcome the bulky, clumsy, and dumb buffalo. As humans evolve, they still retain the primitive sense of assessing others, particularly in a negative light. They do not necessarily assess others to cannibalize them as wild lions do to deers but rather for the ever-present purpose of competition in a Darwinian world, where people look out for themselves while gearing up for confrontations with others.
When Nigerian oligarchs think that citizens residing abroad are fools and are unworthy of voting power or any claim to Nigerian resources, the Belittling and the Mischaracterization Spirit is at work.
If you have a restless Belittling and Mischaracterization Spirit, consider taming it a little. Putting it on a leash will make you a better person. We do not need to put others down to elevate ourselves.
If you care, ask people directly who they are, what they do, and how they feel. Making it up is wrong and painful.
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