How to Achieve High Status

1. Do something really impressive, preferably requiring a skill that others appreciate as difficult to master. Examples: playing a musical instrument, writing a novel, acting in a movie, winning at a competitive sport. Downside: not everybody will be equally impressed by a particular activity. This is especially true for writing (unless you can write a best-seller), even more so for activities for which the necessary skills are difficult to isolate as such. Examples: becoming an expert in a particular academic field (in some contexts, this is a guaranteed status-killer).

2. Live a long time and build up experiences. Corollary: have seniority in your organization or professional field. Downside: people younger than you are will not necessarily have any sense of what it means for you to have lived longer or experienced more than they have. Nor is it typically possible to explain said experience to them precisely because they do not yet have sufficient experience to appreciate what you are talking about. This will be especially the case when they are new to a particular situation and have only their own experience as a reference.

3. Be especially good looking--or, at least, believe that you are. Confidence counts here. For men, it is also helpful to be taller and/or somewhat heavier than average. For women, of course, it helps to be thin, at least if you are a WASP. Downside: looks may depend on being young, particularly if you are living in America where youth rules as an aesthetic. Depending on context, good looks may lower your status because they make it difficult for people to take you seriously. Also, great beauty may engender great jealousy; people tend to be most comfortable around those of similar physical attractiveness.

4. Have a lot of money. Downside (I'm guessing here, I'm not sure there really is a downside): you may not be able to be sure whether anybody is actually your friend. Maybe they just hang out with you because they hope you will be able to make them rich, too. Perhaps guilt at having so much more than others, potentially mitigated by large charitable donations. According to Jesus, great wealth makes it somewhat difficult to enter the kingdom of God. And the taxes are high (or so I'm told).

5. Know stuff. I wish this were true and I am sure that it is sometimes (think the Professor in Gilligan's Island), but in the United States at least it works better for more practical knowledge (again, think the Professor--he invented things) than for what most would consider "book-learning." Pastors occasionally manage to overcome this prejudice against more theoretical or intellectual knowledge, but I suspect that is because they have a practical role to play in the community whereas intellectuals by definition don't so much, except as teachers.

6. Be calm in a crisis. It is possible to fake this one if you learn to control your body language well enough by keeping your head still, not touching your face, standing with your feet pointing outward and not moving your hands erratically. High status in stressful situations means maintaining control of your emotions, but if you can control your voice and body language, nobody will know what you are actually feeling. Plus, the better you can control your body, the calmer you actually will be able to be. Downside: none that I can think of if you are a man. If you are a woman, you miss out on the opportunity of being the center of attention when you collapse delicately into a faint.

7. Be humble. That is, on the one hand, don't actually care about status; while on the other, recognize that nobody really has any status relative to God, including yourself. Humility from this perspective is not so much placing yourself below others as realizing the futility of the whole game. Downside: none.


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