Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Status and Esteem, Old Enemies

In this post, I mentioned the link between status and depression.  That is, low status leads to depression.  After observing my own feelings, watching films, and watching other people, this link seems very strong and very common.  I had a brief e-mail exchange with Alvin Plantinga, a noted Christian philosopher at Notre Dame.  After his responses I fleshed out some of my thinking on this subject. 

There is a dichotomy to status in regards to relationships.  One side is power and the other I call esteem.  A perfect power relationship would be sociopathic, having no value in the person, only in what the person can do for them.  A perfect esteem relationship, would be one of perfect love, where the object is valued without regard to the power the relationship affords.  Neither exists for man in a pure form, only in tendencies.

"Real Friends" as they are referred to are those of esteem.  A friend, who is still your friend when you've lost your ability to provide status and power to those around you.  You lose your fortune, the power relationships end, the esteem relationships remain.  You lose your public image, the power relationships end, the esteem relationships remain.

The world of power relationships is unstable.  The vicissitudes of style, hipness, and good fortune, put us at the whim of forces outside of our control.  There can only be one "it-girl".  There can only be one alpha male.  There's only one Megan Fox, and only one Robert Pattison.  That is, until next week.  It is a zero sum game, where every win presupposes that someone else loses.

The world of esteem relationships is unbounded.  Choosing to trust, to value, appreciate, to love, is a game of mutual advantage.  Every win presupposes that someone else wins.  Our esteem, our status, is a function of our ability to create and maintain genuine relationships.

In that old post, I asked this question:

Are Christians susceptible to depression by avoiding status symbols, personal glory and power? Or is there some other route that supplants these losses with something more?

Choosing to eschew power and embrace esteem is the pathway for the Christian away from depression.  Love your neighbor as yourself.

1 comment:

Stan said...

The zero sum fallacy is the root of a lot of bad economic mistakes. When people say, "the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer," (which virtually never happens in free market countries) they are really saying they believe the zero sum fallacy.

Good blog.