In the 2017 Marvel film “Thor: Ragnarok,” the most popular experience of the Thor trilogy, the main character has been ousted from his homeworld and has landed on this planet of battle. There he finds a character he is familiar with— Hulk. Hulk has an alter ego that manifests physically based on certain stimuli, where the large and intimidating Hulk will shrink down into an average-sized human male named Dr. Bruce Banner.
In order for Thor to get home, he knows he needs the strength of the Hulk as well as the intelligence of Bruce Banner, so he has two separate moments with each ego. He first tells Hulk, “I’m not Banner’s friend. I prefer you. I don’t even like Banner. I’m into numbers and science and stuff.” But then just a few minutes later after the Hulk morphs into the mild-mannered Dr. Banner, Thor appeals to this version by stating “No, no, no. I don’t even like the Hulk. He’s all like grr…smash, smash, smash. I prefer you.”
Now Thor teaches us a valuable lesson on how to unite opposing factions to come together for a cause. But let me start by what I’m not saying. I’m not saying to deceive people. Yes, this is clearly what Thor is trying to do so he can get Hulk and Dr. Banner on his side. Preferring others for the sole motivation of getting your way is manipulation and is not the point. But, Thor also did something else. He highlighted a defining characteristic within people and preferred that characteristic above any other characteristic. He preferred the person in front of him
What would our world look like if we stopped, took a breath, took notice of the defining characteristics in others, and preferred them above ourselves?
I think we would get an opportunity to see something that has never been showcased. I think there would be consistency in listening, learning, and growing that could truly change our world. I think we would get a world willing to fight for one another like Dr. Banner and the Hulk did for Thor! Back to that in a moment.
Research shows that only 10-15% of people are truly self-aware. What does that mean in this context? We don’t really know what we think we know about ourselves. Have we taken the time to do as much listening and observing of others outside of our context as we have with our own internal struggles? It is statistically impossible for us all to be right about ourselves. Taking the brave stance of preferring others above ourselves says that perhaps there are moments when I am in that 85-90% of people that aren’t as aware as I believe I am. Perhaps I don’t have the clearest picture of what is really going on. And maybe, just maybe, if I prefer you, I’ll get more than what I want, I’ll get what I need.
Home is a people. And starting the journey home is as simple as saying, I prefer you.
You see, when Dr. Banner and Hulk helped Thor get back home, he still lost his home. Thor had the way he looked at life change…literally! Thor thought he was supposed to save his home, but at first, he thought his home was a planet. He soon realized that those he preferred helped him see that saving home was saving a people. That’s what Thor really needed. He preferred others, changed his vision, and gained a people. And so too, do I believe, that we must begin to save our home and in doing so, we’ll see that our home is people. People who don’t just look like us or believe the things we believe. But it will be those who we may disagree with, those who have a different ideology, a different language, a different experience, and a different skin tone. Home isn’t any of those things. Home is a people. And starting the journey home is as simple as saying, I prefer you.
Here are a few ways we can prefer others:
- Start with becoming more emotionally intelligent – The typical fear of servant leadership or preferring others is losing yourself. I’m going to come out with more on this, but becoming more emotionally intelligent helps us understand where we are and they are to tell if we need to step back or lean in. Sometimes being the best for others is being good to ourselves.
- Assume they have the answers – We can’t have all the answers. It’s not possible. Being a listener/learner is having the personal conviction that I have something to gain. If you cannot see that you have a need or void, then it will be hard to prefer others
- Check your ego – This is a run-off of way #2. People who can see that they have a need or void are people who have checked their ego at the door. Navigating racial tension in our country has to have elements of laying pride down. No one wants to listen to someone who doesn’t have anything to learn.
- Pick up their banner – This one is tough because some might think that you have to drop your banner to pick up theirs. The idea here is to relinquish your banner long enough to give them the opportunity to pick up your banner as well. When Thor did it, they were more than willing to pick up his banner and it produced life in those that followed him.
- Answer the bell – When you prefer others, you see their needs. The action of preferring them is saying that you are willing to get in the fight with them. You may take a blow, but getting in this fight of racial equality, injustice, and reconciliation, you’re bound to get a bit roughed up. It’s okay if we are all fighting together!