Month: June 2017

Pride in Achievements: Good or Bad?

My friend and I had been discussing a topic back and forth for a while recently before we came to a conclusive agreement. The topic was the issue of pride, and whether pride- and feeling proud- can ever be good.

I had initially set out with the mind set that no, pride in itself cannot ever be good, given that in itself it means that one is thinking of themselves as superior to others. My good friend however argued that- in the face of equal circumstances and situations as other people, it is reasonable to be proud of the hard work that one has put in in order to achieve one’s goals. I eventually relented and accepted that yes, this made sense, but we both agreed that ultimately there is a measure of grace for each of us that allows us to be successful in life. It would be crazy to think that every single achievement and factor enabling our achievements in life has always been under our control, and attributable to our own actions.

To take a quick recent example, throughout this last year of working for my degree there have been so many instances when my achievements could have swung one way or another due to factors outside of my control. When I submitted a piece of coursework late for example, the result of 10 credits, and potentially the difference in my overall degree classification relied upon the grace of that lecturer. Similarly, there was another time when I had to (well I could have started earlier but that’s another story) write an essay in less than 6 hours (I started at midnight) which was due the same day as my dissertation. I had people praying for me and completely relied on God to get me through. There was no way when I found out that I got 65 (1,000 words short and with no reference section) that I feel I could take credit myself! For me it was nothing short of a miracle.

Therefore it seems that being proud is a difficult concept. For while it may be said that to feel good or proud that we have worked hard is a beneficial thing. On the other hand, it may be argued that feeling proud of our achievements can put as at risk of underestimating the contribution of favourable circumstances and situations around us, that have enabled us to succeed. In this way, it also makes us more likely to look down upon others who haven’t been so fortunate, whether due to their upbringing, circumstances or other influences. Thus, it seems to me that feelings of pride about one’s self must be taken with a large dose of thankfulness, and humility, recognising that it is by grace that we are who we are, and achieved what we have. Just think about all those little details that made your success possible that you never even considered.

That’s why for me- I’m thankful, and not proud, knowing that every good gift I have comes from the hand of God, and just as easily (although this is hard to say!) can be taken away.

Jeremiah 9:23 ‘Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches”.’

Proverbs 29:23 ‘One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor’.

Romans 12:16 ‘Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight’.

 

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What is ‘The Hope Project’?

A series of short interviews finding what gives people hope in the midst of darkness. This project was set up in the wake of much suffering. The constant terror and negative news of June 2017 prompted me to question the fears that can so easily come to dominate our thoughts and minds. It challenged me to start a movement that instead of stirring up fear, stirs up hope. That is the aim of this project, to spread light in the midst of darkness and to unite us all in the knowledge that no matter how much darkness, there is always a light we can look to 🌟🙏🏻💛

If you’re interested please follow the project on Instagram: @hopeadvocate

Why Corbyn Makes A Great Leader: The Strength of Personal Conviction

I was on the train travelling back to Loughborough yesterday evening. I had to take a few unexpected changes due to delays, but I was grateful in the end that it resulted in some very chance and interesting meetings with others. The first person I met was a graduate student who studied in Manchester. We were sat at one of those table seats opposite each other. We all know how awkward it can get as you both negotiate trying to avoid eye contact so I decided I would speak to him.

“Excuse me what book are you reading?”

“Oh you like reading too?”

What started off as a discussion of books, soon turned into a discussion of all sorts of topics including politics, race, and religion. I could pick out all sorts of interesting sound-bytes from our conversation, but instead I want to expand on one issue in particular.

We had been discussing each other’s courses, when the topic turned to the question of morality, and how masses of ‘normal’ people can get involved in mass killings such as genocides. This was a topic I had written an essay about, and become aware of the many situational pressures that would push seemingly ‘normal’ people to rationalise and even moralise such evil behaviour.

“It’s usually the case that, because of the situation, people are put into situations where they cannot, or feel that they cannot escape. Then they’ll experience cognitive dissonance, an inconsistency, between their beliefs, and the behaviour they are carrying out. In this situation, people usually do one of two things, they either change their behaviour, or more likely, they’ll change their beliefs. For example they’ll dehumanise the victims and see them as sub-human in order to make their actions seem moral”.

“Yeah that’s so true, because no one wants to see themselves as the bad guy”.

“Exactly”.

I reasoned that it was quite a rare, and bold thing to do, to say to yourself “no – this is right, and this is wrong”. And to hold that as personally true, regardless of the situations. In fact, it represents functioning and thinking at a level of morality that the majority of the population usually don’t reach. This is according to research by Kohlberg (1958), who showed that for most of us, morality is judged on the bass of social approval, and the influence of authority, and not internal moral principles.

My new found friend agreed and started to tell me about his admiration of the actions of Nelson Mandela, a political activist and leader who showed just this type of moral thinking. His behaviour was strongly motivated by an internal moral principle of peace and justice, so much so that he was willing to face imprisonment for his opposition protests of minority white rule in South Africa. Even on his release and on achieving the role of presidency, he sought to reconcile and work with those who had imprisoned him. He even had dinner with those who had tried to have him killed in order to help bring about this healing peace-making process.

I agreed in amazement that this was a man with real conviction and courage.

Like Mandela, I have come to believe that Corbyn is a man of great moral conviction, courage, and personal integrity. Once returning back into my university halls, I was prompted by our conversation to follow some of the debates and look up the manifestos (rather than founding my political opinion on bits and pieces from my Facebook feed – which I admit is easy to do but perhaps not the most responsible way). I watched many different interviews with both Corbyn, and May, representing the Labour and Conservative parties respectively. I was impressed by Corbyn’s answers, and his confidence – even pride in defending and explaining his manifesto and plans. And, furthermore, the moral basis on which his manifesto was built. But I was also impressed by something else.

It may be no surprise to many of you reading, but it has been known and publicised that many of Theresa May’s promises and ‘priorities’ clash against her voting history and apparent convictions. One key example of this can be seen in her speech at Birmingham in July 2016, in which she stated that high-earning global companies, such as Amazon and Google, have a duty to pay their taxes. And yet – just months before, she had voted against implementing proposals intended to reduce tax avoidance and evasion. Jeremy Corbyn, however, appears to have great integrity, and has been quoted as such by many colleagues and acquaintances.

He has a track record of standing by the same socialist principles and convictions, even when the pressure to change his opinion gets tough. This can be demonstrated not least through his involvement in many campaigns over the years. He has served on the National Executive of the Anti-Apartheid Movement (which also resulted in being arrested in 1984 for protesting outside South Africa House), chaired the ‘Stop War’ coalition in protest of the Iraq War, and campaigned regularly against the conflict in Gaza. By his actions he has been shown to consistently promote the values of justice, peace, equality, and solidarity. Further to this, he appears to do this unashamedly, and without pride. It is noted for example that Corbyn usually has the lowest expenses of any MP.

The integrity of Corbyn really hit home for me when I heard his response in a Question Time episode by the BBC. Supporters of the Conservative party questioned him about his apparent reluctance to use nuclear weapons as defence. In response he replied, ‘look I don’t want to be responsible for the deaths of millions of people, and neither do you’. And it’s true – that even since being a school boy in 1966, Corbyn has been all for campaigning against nuclear disarmament. Rather than finding this act of determination and defiance worrying however, as others might, it filled me with trust and admiration. For it’s clear to me that, like a real leader should be, Jeremy is leading out of a strong sense of moral conviction. For his political behaviour evidently is not just a matter of politics, but of true, personal deep conviction.

A man of courage, integrity, and convicted on the grounds of equality, peace, and justice. That’s the kind of person I trust to lead me, and to shape the future of this country.

Who will you trust?

Escape: A Poem

Often my mind – it tempts me to think,

that all of my needs should be found in a blink.

the warmth of the sand, a forgiving new land,

might just be what I need to escape.

 

But what if escape is not a place to find,

but rather a powerful, true contentment of mind,

a place that can be found wherever-

in the depths of one’s heart.

 

See so often I am reminded-

there’s this truth that I know,

That when it comes to escaping,

we rarely have so far to go.

 

For the presence of God, it moves in waves,

it ebbs and flows and carries yearning hearts away-

into new places, my spirit soars free,

In the love of the Father,

I find escape and wonder in me.

‘Equality is the Best Therapy’

Recently during a lecture, the idea was raised that ‘equality is the best therapy’. I can relate to this at least on an interpersonal level, as I know I feel most at peace when I have no need to compare myself with others, either through downward or upward comparison. However, unlike the lecture, for me, the benefits of equality stem from the psychological impacts of feeling like you belong and are part of a community, as opposed to any perceived necessity of possessing certain resources or attributes. I think this is especially the case in developed countries such as the UK, where arguably basic physiological and safety needs are met in a far greater capacity than in the past, and compared to other less developed countries (Maslow, 1943, 1954; Batholomew, 2015).

In the case of poverty, it’s interesting that more financially equal countries have higher levels of social health (Wilkinson, & Pickett, 2011). For example, the USA while one of the richest countries in the world also has some of the highest rates and homicide and mental illness. On the other hand, as I have experienced, in poorer but more equal countries like Denmark, crime levels are so low most residents leave their bicycles in the street with no bike lock! This suggests that there is a much greater level of trust within more equal societies. This then suggests that the knock-on effects on communities and interpersonal relationships may have greater significance to social health rankings than the access to wealth or resources in themselves (Wilkinson, & Pickett, 2011)

This only seems more likely when one considers the poor families living in past Britain, or less developed countries, who would arguably not recognise our definition of poverty today in modern Britain (Bartholomew, 2015). Indeed, it could be argued that if all members of society lived in line with what currently we consider as ‘poor’, there would be no sense of shame, isolation or perhaps deficits in social health problems, as the whole society would be united in any perceived struggle or wealth (Tajfel, 1979). It may be argued that overall well-being may even increase, despite a decrease in wealth, due to the value that belonging to an in-group holds.

Thus, it may be argued that for the UK, addressing equality is of great importance if we are to achieve greater measures of health and well-being among communities. It seems that rather than assuming that the low well-being of the poorest communities is a result of material possessions or resources alone, we ought to examine the deeply personal psychological effects of having much greater or lesser than your neighbour… Whether you are a high-earner and feel great pride over your wealth, or are unemployed and perhaps feel bitter that you are just working to put food on the table… Perhaps we all ought to start to question, whatever we earn, how we can grow in empathy and understanding, how can we lend a hand to our neighbours, and how can we start to bridge the divide and interpersonal barriers created by inequality.