I'm sure you've heard people say this in reference to many things. Heck, I know I've said. I often hear it about my work. "Wow, Faith! It takes a special kind of person to do the work you do." Today, I heard my husband say it. It was in direct response to my ongoing dialogue about wanting to eventually adopt a child from the foster care system. I pointed out people we know (even peripherally) who have already taken this path. His response was, "It takes a special kind of person to do that."
I disagree. And I've been thinking about this statement that we all use so soften. And I've come to think that maybe we use this statement to distance ourselves from the action that we know needs to be taken. Maybe, just maybe, when we say that it takes a "special kind of person" to do something, what we are saying to ourselves is, "Well, that special person is not me, so I don't need to feel guilty that I'm not doing it." Guilt is a difficult emotion to endure...and our egos move us away from it very effectively. However, I would argue that guilt is a necessary emotion that we should not only not avoid, but should lean into. It is with a healthy dose of guilt that we move towards doing the right thing, that we try to right our wrongs and that we sometimes choose to move past our comfort zones.
I said to Jason when he made this statement, "We are special people. YOU are special. Look how happy and loved your kids are, how they are confident and social in their world, how sensitive they are, how smart and funny they are...YOU are a part of that. YOU have it in you." He replied that he's already exhausted, pushed to his limits some days, short on patience and lacking the relaxation time and sleep he wants to have. I wonder, does he think that these "special kind of people" aren't also exhausted, overwhelmed, pushed to their limits daily, and often question what in the world they got themselves into? You see, when we defer to the "special" people to do hard things, we also put them in an angelic-type box. And then what we do is leave ourselves out of the box because, of course, we know we are nowhere near that divine level of patience and kindness. And then what happens then? We become inactive. People suffer. In this case, kids in the foster care system suffer.
As I read this to Jason, making sure to get his permission to post this, he pointed out that guilt is not in the equation for him. There are other reasons for his resistance to this idea. Maybe even reasons I will get to explore here later. That is his experience, and he has a right to it. But, I do think guilt plays a part in how we use this phrase, and why we use it...in some situations. I also think it can play a part in dampening our emotions and moving us away from scary things. If my unconscious guilt stops my thinking there (you know, that part that tells me there is this special breed/class of people somewhere out there doing said good deed) then I don't have to roll up my sleeves, put on my galoshes and trudge into the deep, dark, murky water of "hard stuff." So, if guilt is in your equation, or even if it is not, maybe it is worth exploring? Perhaps the reason you can't or won't do something is just the surface. Perhaps there is more to be learned about yourself. And perhaps someone else could benefit from your self exploration. Perhaps...
6 hours ago