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Gordon Ramsay and Dr. Phil 

05/08/2020 01:52:55 PM


Why is it that Gordon Ramsay and Dr. Phil are so popular in America? You may or may not like them individually, but clearly these two personalities have a large following.  So again I ask the question, Why? While they can come across as crass, hostile, and even sometimes mean, I believe their approach shares one thing in common that resonates with Americans. While some could argue that we simply enjoy schadenfreude, taking joy in other’s pain, I think it is the opposite. I think these two inspire us by the way they treat others. Not the mean words or the method of communication, but the message that lies beneath their words: you are capable of overcoming your shortcomings, you are powerful. These two do not infantilize the people in front of them. They do not treat them like children, they hold them accountable, and whether explicitly or implicitly communicate to the individual they're speaking to that they are capable of being more. They empower the individual.

We live in a country that has a tendency to infantilize all of us. Our society and laws have a habit of unintentionally disempowering us. As a result, many of us, like any child, become hungry for approval but also belief in who we are and what we are capable of accomplishing. When we feel like no one believes in us, it becomes hard to be our best selves. However, when we are held accountable, when we are told that we can be in control of our actions, that we can be more than what we are right now, it inspires us and makes us rise to the occasion.

This pandemic has forced us all to be accountable. It has called on us to step outside our comfort zones and be what we know deep down we can be. It has allowed us to show others what we are truly capable of being. This situation calls on us to behave like grown-ups and we are rising to the occasion.

We all need a cheerleader - someone who believes in us and pushes us to be our best. So while Gordon Ramsay and Dr. Phil may turn us off in some ways in their approach, there's something deeper in what they do that resonates with us. That thing is that they know we can dig deeper and there is more to us then even we may believe. They demand something of us, to be our best selves. We should all be hungry to be demanded of, to be the best that we can possibly be.

Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote about the Prophets of the Bible:
To a person endowed with prophetic sight, everyone appears blind; to a person who is able to perceive God’s voice, everyone appears deaf. The prophet hates the approximate, he shuns the middle of the road. The Prophet disdains those for whom God's presence is comfort and security; to him it is a challenge, an incessant demand.

Perhaps on some deep internal level we secretly hunger for the demand. We hunger for the challenge. We want to be called on to be our best, to do our best. Love, hugs, and comfort are temporary, but trust responsibility, and accountability are enduring. We will emerge out of this spiritually stronger than we are right now because this situation is demanding of us. Be empowered. We are in control of our destinies. This control, this power, requires sacrifice. To gain this power will require humility and maturity. In the end by social-distancing, by staying home, by sacrificing our summers and certain comforts, we demonstrate how powerful we truly are capable of being.

Fri, May 29 2020 6 Sivan 5780