The Surprising Life Lesson from “Seinfeld”

First, a disclaimer: I am a huge “Seinfeld” fan. I’ve seen every episode multiple times (thanks to the marvels of syndication) and have been known to hold entire conversations with fellow aficionados using dialogue from the show. I’m pretty sure that, if there were a “Seinfeld”-based game show, I’d clean up on it.

That said, you may not be surprised to learn that I’ve managed to eke out a life lesson from a vehicle that is supposed to be “a show about nothing”. I watch “Seinfeld” purely for the entertainment factor, not for moral lessons, but occasionally there is a nugget of truth to be gleaned.

Case in point: “The Package”, an episode from the show’s 8th season. Elaine visits her doctor for treatment for a rash on her arm. While waiting for the doctor to come into the exam room, she takes a peek at her medical chart, where she discovers that, on a previous visit, someone had documented her as a “difficult” patient. She is distressed by the thought that she would be characterized as “difficult” and lobbies to have the note about her removed from her record.

Much to her chagrin, her attempts only further cement her as a “difficult” patient in her doctor’s eyes, and she finds herself in search of a new doctor who doesn’t know about her “difficult” medical history. Alas, her medical chart follows her from doctor to doctor, each of whom can see her previous doctor’s notes on her behavior. As a result, each new doctor she sees treats her as a difficult patient right off the bat, without actually getting to know her.

While I’m pretty sure that the writers of this episode didn’t intend for it to convey any deeper meaning, I found one anyway. (Take that, writers!) I realized how similar Elaine’s predicament is to the damage that words can inflict in our own lives (or, sadly, that we can inflict on others). How many times have you had someone tell you something negative about someone else before you’ve even met the person? If you choose to believe what’s been told to you about that person, you’re probably immediately forming a negative opinion of them, sight unseen. Unfairly, the new person has already been judged by you and found wanting because of someone else’s negative opinion of them.

I have to admit that I’ve sometimes been the one unfairly sharing my opinion of someone to another who had not yet had the chance to form their own opinion. That’s not to say that what I have to say about that person isn’t true, but I really should refrain from saying anything that would taint someone else’s opinion of them. For that matter, I should just refrain from saying anything negative about anyone, period, and that would probably solve a lot of troubles right there!

Now I just need to see what kind of life lesson I can gain from the episode about Festivus…

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