Arrogance becomes property of the owner
People Matter was a regular column by Phillip Jensen in Southern Cross, the monthly magazine of the Anglican Diocese of Sydney.
Jensen, P 'Arrogance becomes property of the owner'. Southern Cross, February 2000.
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“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant.” 1 Timothy 6:17.
Brian and Jeff went into a real estate agent to seek help. Brian to rent a unit, Jeff to sell one.
Brian was dealt with at the counter, by the young receptionist. He was given a form to fill in. It asked all kinds of personal details about his situation in life.
There was nowhere in the office for Brian to fill out the form. There was a chair near the door and he could write on his knee. He chose to stand at the counter and fill it out there, while the receptionist dealt with other customers all around him.
When he finished he waited for the receptionist to deal with other customers before she turned to him. She was busy that day, and most days, not just dealing with the counter enquiries but also answering the phone. And most calls were for the sales people and executives.
Brian stood waiting impatiently. There was not much of an alternative. He needed a place and the other real estate agencies had treated him in the same fashion.
Finally the receptionist turned to him. She went through his form to make sure he had answered all the questions. She asked for clarification on some details. He felt so embarrassed, so humiliated. Somebody young enough to be his daughter was patronising him publicly and discussing his financial standing in public—with other customers listening.
Jeff's experience of the real estate office was quite different. He asked the receptionist for the sales department.
“Which property were you interested in”, she inquired politely.
“No I wish to sell one” Jeff replied.
“Oh, come this way” she said holding open the counter door leading him into a private office. “I will get one of the sales department to attend to you in a moment sir. Would you like tea or coffee?”
Within a minute a sales representative appeared and introduced herself. Coffee arrived in a nice cup with biscuit, milk and sugar. A friendly discussion ensued culminating in the sales representative filling out the necessary form for him.
Leaving aside the reasons why agencies treat people so differently, notice what effect the treatment has on Brian and Jeff.
Brian is treated as a nobody. A person without importance or even privacy. An incompetent man who cannot be even trusted to fill out a form correctly. Somebody that even his juniors boss about.
Jeff on the other hand, is a person of significance. He is too important to fill out his own form. People hold out chairs for him. They act on his behalf. They organise his unit to be cleaned and painted and rented and... all he has to do is sign his name.
These differences played out a thousand times, in one context after another, will persuade Brian of his insignificance. And these differences will persuade Jeff to be arrogant without even noticing or knowing that he is. Like most wealthy people he just comes to expect a certain standard of treatment as his right. He would be astonished to be told that he is arrogant.
But this is not the fable of two men but the true story of one man.
Jeff and Brian are actually the same person—the Real Estate agency did not recognise him. That is, they did not recognise ‘Brian’. They always recognise ‘Jeff’.