When reading the title of this article there were probably multiple “isms” in your mind, perhaps the ones that you dislike most. You know, the bigger social issues of our day: racism, classism, sexism… These are things that people all over the world have to deal with frequently. In my opinion, I have finally realized the underlying reason behind all of these “isms.”
Even today, long after the Civil Rights Movement and into a day and age in which equality is of the utmost importance, human beings suffer because of others. It is often that people feel degraded or worse by the actions and words of people from other nationalities and cultures, the opposite sex and those in a different social and financial class. These aren’t the only three “isms” that plague society today, but they are a few of the most hotly debated.
My case is this: everyone has their own “ism.” It’s impossible, as long as we base our value on temporal things, for anyone to not have an “ism” or two. You might be wondering just what I’m talking about here, and I’ll happily explain. We as humans have a value system. We value things like our loved ones, our careers and our things. We value these things because they give us worth. We base how valuable we are on the value of the things that are ours. So, if I am married then I have the prestigious title of being a “husband”, or if I have a child then I have the great title of “father”. If I work hard enough then I can obtain a valuable title from my workplace. These titles make us who we are, or at least that’s the way that most of the world sees it.
Everyone seeks a self-identity. We all want to know who we are and why we are here, and we get our identity, our sense of worth and purpose, from our families, careers, money, material things, race, gender, nationality… And therein lays the real reason behind the “isms.” When I get my identity from a temporal, impermanent thing, then I subject myself to pain when that thing changes. If I get my worth from my children then when they leave I feel worthless; or if from my spouse then when our relationship hits a rocky road then I end up in pain.
Beyond that, we get our value from these things that are subject to change, after all nothing in this world remains the same forever, and that leads to a form of exclusion. It’s impossible to escape this conundrum. We naturally feel superior to anyone that doesn’t have the thing that gives us our identity. So if I get all of my worth from my being an American, or a man, or a husband, or a father, or my career, or my car, then I will naturally feel superior to anyone that isn’t an American, or a man, or a husband, and so on.
Even if they never admit it, everyone deals with these superiority issues because that is the natural way of things. If they aren’t included in your group then they are out of your group. You’d be hard pressed to find any person that doesn’t feel superior at something in some area. They feel better than someone else. That is the reason for these “isms.” It’s just out of control identity issues.
The problem arises when we take good things that are worthy of our love and turn them into ultimate things. Things that we should love or like, like our families and friends, careers etc... turn into our downfall when we make them into more than they should be. Nothing of this world can define who we are as individuals.
The only real way to get over it is to not put your value into things that can change. As far as I know, there is only One that doesn’t change, and He loves us because we are His. That is the only thing worth of getting our identity from. We need to get to a place in which everyone can come together with a common ground, and the only way for that to happen is by making the only eternal reality the basis of our identities as persons of the world.