The dichotomy between the status-watching and egalitarian behavior has been an issue for me in the past. I’m definitely an equaliser at heart; trusting authority and respecting hierarchy does not come naturally for me. However, I have played along clumsily when I perceived the game of “status” and “competition” as crucial to my survival-needs, but because I still carried a negative attitude toward these values I ended up getting myself in trouble at times.
Dhamma further enhanced my tendency toward equality; I found the non-profit, volunteer run centers to foster a strong egalitarian environment. The teacher presence does create some hierarchy; however status seems well aligned with nature as teachers are humble, elderly, and serve only to facilitate the well-established technique, rules, and precepts. Participating as a server, I realized I had never experienced a more harmonious group dynamic. I had never felt so free from the presence of people ranking each other, and wondering how I could to get respect without treading on others. What a haven!
However, I’m not planning to turn away from the world just yet. I know I still have lots to learn among people; all kinds of people, and its become clear to me that the world is not an easy place for a pure equaliser. From what I’ve seen, a balance between the two polarities is the most effective way to orient oneself. So how to re-approach the status game? How to respect the status of others and embrace it for myself?
I find thinking of status in terms of how much risk people are willing to take for the group quite helpful. The risk could be financial, but it could also be how much time someone’s willing to spend. Even if their motives are overly self-interested, not everyone will take the initiative to risk, and if I’d prefer not be the one to doing it right now I have to respect that someone else is. If I am the one willing to take the risk, I’ll do it half for my personal growth and half for group’s benefit, this way I can respect my own intention whether I succeed or fail. If I come out more empowered than I’ve ever been I will stay conscious that this extra power isn’t mine, other people who don’t want to take the risk right now, have trusted me enough to lend me power, and so I shall use it responsibly on their behalf!