… and if you don’t realize these truths, you’re going to hurt others, as Takeo does in Ore Monogatari, and as I’ve done with my family.
“You matter,” my sister told me, as my built-up stress finally burst out in tears and complaints. “Your needs and feelings matter… We love you, and we want to understand you better… just let us know if you’re uncomfortable with something.”
I was living with two married couples and a baby. I’m usually pretty confident with my close family, but my thinking went sideways this summer. I wanted to be considerate of the couples’ privacy, ways they wished to use the family room, and their wish for as-much-neatness-as-reasonable-with-a-baby-around. How nice of me, right? Uh, no. My “consideration” came largely from my desire to avoid any uncomfortable conflict, and to be thought of as a helpful—or at least pleasant—member of the household. And my definition of “consideration” morphed into “don’t interfere in others’ conversations, even if you’re uncomfortable, and don’t use any noisy media—including the family TV—downstairs if others are awake, because the bigger groups’ recreational choices are more important than yours as the only single adult.”
Fast forward a few months, and my little sister—one of the married folks—informs me that I’ve been looking at my place in the household all wrong. If I’d talked to her about this earlier, I could have avoided a couple misunderstandings and deepened my relationship with family members. Instead, I assumed I knew what they wanted from me. Eventually, pent-up frustration burst out in words that I’m sure hurt at least one of them.
Lesson: Don’t assume you know what others think about you or want from you. Sometimes—especially with those you’re closest to—it’s better to just ask. Otherwise, being “considerate” may cause you to hurt them.
I feel like I come back to this topic too frequently, albeit from slightly different angles each time. But humility/vanity and Wrong View of Self are rampant themes in anime and in life.
I’ll return to Ore Monogatari in a moment. First, in keeping with this morning’s post, let’s look at another prime example: Sophie from Howl’s Moving Castle. She believes she isn’t beautiful. Before she’s cursed, she settles into her comfortable role as the least beautiful hatter’s daughter. When she is cursed with old age, very little changes in her opinion of herself. In her eyes, she’s lost what beauty she had, but there wasn’t much to lose anyway.
In this morning’s guest post, “On Being an Old Hag,” Allison wrote about what Sophie gained under the age curse. She referenced a scene where she said she wasn’t pretty or good for much besides cleaning, and Howl responded, “Sophie, you’re beautiful!”
Sophie didn’t believe him. Why? Fear, I think. If she’s old and ugly, she doesn’t have an image to lose. If she believes she’s beautiful and then finds it’s not true, it will hurt. A lot. Her curse doesn’t break until, as Allison wrote, “she’s completely accepted that she has value and that she is beautiful in the eyes of someone else.” Until then, she hobbles along, hindered by old joints long before her time.
This isn’t just an image issue, but a trust issue. Sophie doesn’t trust Howl to be honest about his perception of her—or perhaps she doesn’t trust his perception.
I’m frustrated with another anime character about this issue right now. Takeo for Ore Monogatari got it into his head that he’s not good enough for Yamato. Again.
[Spoilers for ep 23 ahead]
It was one thing when they were just getting to know each other. I wrote about how he ignored his own worth in the beginning and assumed Yamato liked Suna instead. Fine. But now they’ve been dating for several months. They clearly love each other—everyone can see it in how they talk, support each other, and search out one another’s company. You would think Takeo would have at least a little faith in Yamato’s love for him.
Nope. The dimwit sees her with a patissiere coworker, Ichinose, and promptly decides the new guy has much more in common with her than he does. Takeo realizes he should have more confidence as a man, and as her boyfriend… but instead of gaining confidence, he seems to consider the weakness another mark against him. Oh, and Ichinose has a car, which clearly beats an umbrella in the rain. So far, Takeo has shown no sign that he trusts Yamato’s love for him, or even her judgment about who is best for her. He doesn’t even consider that his value might not be measurable in statistics like the number of shared hobbies. At this rate, he’ll make her cry again.
Takeo’s not the only character afflicted with Wrong View of Self. Ichinose has a self-centered perspective on life. He doesn’t want to put out his own creations for sale, because he hates it if they don’t completely sell out. Never mind the people he would delight with his culinary gift. Yamato praises his abilities and encourages him to sell his cakes, and he begins showing symptoms of a crush. These feelings motivate him to behave in noticeably kinder ways to her (and to the other employees). Since she has such an affect on him, he decides she’s his muse. Further, he misinterprets her interest in his work for interest in him. His crush quickly becomes something more, and he’s determined to steal her from Takeo.
The way he puts affectionate words in her mouth and crosses social boundaries (like calling her by her first name) is scary. He’s one step away from delusional stalker mode. With his Wrong View of Self, he assumes Yamato’s kindness is something more. Further, his self-centeredness blinds him to her true wishes.
Ichinose believes he’s the only one that matters. This leads him to disregard Takeo’s worth and misjudge his compatibility with Yamato. He thinks his cake skills and newfound ability to “be nice” are enough, but everyone in the audience knows they’re not.
Takeo believes he doesn’t matter. This leads him to see Ichinose as a good match for Yamato, instead of as the emotionally manipulative, immature, rather creepy adult he is.
Neither of them ask Yamato what she thinks. If they continue on this course, they’ll hurt the very one the care for.
Wrong View of Self isn’t a one-person problem, and it’s usually connected with Wrong View of Others, because we operate in community. As a result, we tend to misjudge and hurt those around us. I learned that this summer, and Takeo has a chance to learn that now. Ichinose might figure it out, too, but I suspect empathy is a brand new concept, and he needs to learn that first. For now, he’s on track to look like a fool (reminds me of Luke 14:7-11).
A lot of us struggle to figure out our place in relation to other people and to the world in general. It helps to straighten out any Wrong View of God, another aspect that’s closely related. Learning about God puts things in perspective, and part of learning about him is learning what he says about you. Knowing your identity in relation to God can lead to both humility and confidence—at least for Christians. Paul spent a lot of time in his letters explaining what our identity is with God, both as individuals and as a church. I wrestled through this a lot in high school, when psychological issues forced me to rely more fully on God for my identity and worth, rather than on my own capabilities. I still have to return to these truths: I am loved—even liked—by my Creator and Savior. I am being made new, being molded in Christ’s likeness. I stand secure in Christ’s righteousness. My strengths and weaknesses are useful to God and others, even when I don’t see how. I don’t get to decide I’m useless or irredeemable. My judgment of myself is skewed. God has more patience with me than I do with myself… and so on. I’m not enough on my own. Without God, my many faults and sins would hold me back from accomplishing anything of eternal value. And I’m definitely not enough for anyone else: I can help people, but they need Jesus for perfect love and salvation. That, too, is part of a right, humble view—and an essential part of the life-giving Gospel.
Trust God to be faithful, patient, loving, just, constant. Trust his judgment, and if you’re uncertain about what he says about who you are, then find someone to help you understand his Word. I hope you can trust those you’re closest to as well—ask them what they want from you, and what they think about you. Both of you will have a chance to learn about each other. And whether their feedback is positive or negative, you’ll have a chance to grow—something that can’t happen if you assume your perspective is right. Correcting Wrong View of Self is difficult, but it’s better than acting like Sophie, crippled by insecurity, Takeo, who’s at risk of hurting Yamato by pulling back, or Ichinose, hurtling toward pain for all involved.