Consider It

My biggest pet peeve is ignorance. When people don't know what I think they should (i.e. what I know), it makes me want to set myself on fire. Which should firmly establish that I'm both incredibly pretentious and a big, fat hypocrite (but at least I'm not ignorant of how ridiculously unreasonable that standard is).

Now, my second biggest pet peeve is being inconsiderate. And unlike the first, this is a standard I intend to hold my kid to, all but a month away. Because as far as I'm concerned, how considerate we are of others is the measure of our maturity.

Think about it. We all begin as a fusion of cells that lacks any self-awareness. Even as we develop inside the womb, for all we know, we're a part of our mothers who are incubating us. It's not until we're born that we gradually begin to realize that we have autonomy, that we're distinct entities. And with this knowledge comes the realization that there are other people in the world too.

photo credit: kudaker via photopin cc
Yet it takes years before a child learns that what he or she does has implications on those around them. They're still learning about cause and effect, action and consequence. These are concepts that seem so rudimentary to us as adults it's almost laughable. But they're the basic principles behind being considerate. Which leads me to believe that if we're inconsiderate, we're little more than big babies.

It sounds a lot like that unreasonable standard of ignorance, doesn't it? How can we expect someone to be considerate of our needs if they don't know those needs? It seems like a fair question. However, it's also like saying that we can't be expected to know any random piece of trivia when most of us have Google in our pockets. In other words, if ignorance can be abated by doing a little research, then being more considerate is only a matter of time and effort.

Case in point, my wife is now eight months pregnant, and she rides public transit every day. Now if she were to ask someone for their seat, would it be considerate of that person to do so? The answer is no. A big, fat, stinking no. What on earth is considerate about obliging a socially accepted request under the watchful gaze of public scrutiny? At best, it's polite; at worst, it's peer pressure.

Being considerate, on the other hand, is much more than this. Just like it sounds, it's about considering the needs of those around you. And in this situation, being considerate would mean looking up from your phone every now and then so you can offer your seat to someone who needs it more than you (like my very pregnant wife). It's an active social posture, not a passive one.

But just like immature toddlers--whose biggest insult is calling each other a baby--we like blaming our lack of attention to others' needs on them. As if our maturity is dependent on how verbal people are. Quite to the contrary, being considerate doesn't mean meeting an expressed need, it means anticipating it.

This takes work, and requires us to be students of people. But most importantly, it requires us to think of others outside of ourselves. Because being inconsiderate makes us just as self-absorbed as infants. And in our case, it's just not cute anymore.