Food For Thought – Credentials
©2002 Gail Pursell Elliott
In the Wizard of OZ, Dorothy had three companions on her journey. All three of them thought they knew themselves and their limitations pretty well. They identified with what they lacked and were very open about declaring their defects. They all believed if they could just get to the Wizard that he would be able to give them the gifts that they most desired the qualities that each valued most of all.
None of them realized that they already possessed their hearts’ desires. What was necessary was for them to have some sort of external confirmation. The Wizard did nothing more than validate those qualities in a manner that each could accept. They suddenly had “credentials.”
Credentials validate accomplishments or qualities that are recognized by generally accepted criteria. Credentials also can trigger assumptions and expectations that may or may not be accurate. Some people equate credentials with value, insight, wisdom and other qualities that just may not apply. For example, those who are ‘hung up’ on credentials may not accept a statement or point of view unless it is confirmed by someone else they consider to be an expert with what they feel are the right credentials. This form of stereotyping is a double whammy. Not only does it devalue human beings but also it establishes unrealistic expectations.
Earning a Ph.D. doesn’t necessarily make one an expert on anything other than the subject studied but often this is assumed.
Becoming an ordained minister doesn’t mean that one suddenly has an inside track on spirituality but often this is expected.
Achieving Eagle Scout rank doesn’t necessarily mean that one will always behave in an honest and trustworthy manner without exception but often this is inferred.
Credentials acknowledge great persistence and achievements that deserve recognition. There is nothing wrong with having them or desiring to achieve them. They are necessary for certain professions. They can be extremely positive unless we lose perspective and use them as justification to discriminate: to sort, label or categorize human beings. When we allow credentials to determine whether or not someone is taken seriously or treated with dignity and respect we are looking at the person stereotypically, requiring proof of the worth of their viewpoint or their value, whether personally or professionally.
The Lion was courageous but didn’t realize it until he was given the medal.
The Tin Man exhibited love and compassion but didn’t realize it until he was given a heart shaped watch to tick inside his metal chest.
The Scarecrow was intelligent but didn’t realize it until he was handed a diploma.
There are also important credentials that aren’t awarded by a governing body or board of review. These other forms of credentials have to do with process rather than outcome. They are essential when it comes to creating our destiny, determining our impact on the future, and being able to fully appreciate the present moment and its experience. We all are aware of such credentials. We look for them when we establish criteria for friendships, life partners, business associates, and other relationships or situations of personal impact. These other credentials have to do with internal substance rather than external achievement. One example is integrity.
We have the option of taking the position of the Wizard of OZ, to see past the limitations that others apply to themselves and to us, to offer recognition of the truth of the individual that is within. In the final analysis, these are the kind of credentials that keep building upon themselves, because they become more than something we have accomplished. They are internalized and become elements of the essence of our identity. It is food for thought.