Have you ever gone somewhere, looked around the room, and thought, “Yeah, I should have worn something else?” Recently, I found myself in a hospital elevator and it happened to me. I looked around and found myself as the only one not wearing a white coat of some kind. It made me chuckle. But as I made my observation, something else more poignant occurred to me. I was the only one NOT wearing my credentials on my sleeve (literally). My first reaction was that if something were to happen to me at that very moment, the chances of survival were pretty good. But then as the elevator crawled to the next floor, I began to wonder what exactly all those stitched letters meant: DO, DPM, CNA, ACNP, MD, RD, and a combination of other acronyms. Some were combined in such a string of proclaimed accomplishments that I wondered if even the person wearing them knew what they meant. Don’t misunderstand me. I know that these people worked hard for their designations. I’m sure their moms are proud. But doesn’t that string of letters sometimes feel a little arrogant to anyone else? I mean, I don’t know what they all mean and I’m sure most others don’t either. But they certainly imply a level of importance. And we sometimes trust ourselves more with those who wear them, right? The connotation is that the more letters one wears after his or her name, the more important he or she is. It is an alphabet soup hierarchy.
I thought about all those letters for a couple of days. Then I came up with this idea. What if, instead of wearing letters to demonstrate our completed schooling or skill levels, we had to wear acronyms to demonstrate the kind of people we are. Now if you are immediately reminded of Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter, let me clarify my intentions. I don’t mean that we should be branded with our sins and misgivings. But what I am suggesting is that instead of judging a person’s worth by the earned degrees on their sleeve (and the implied salary level), it might be better practice to celebrate the personal qualities of people. After all, just because someone went to school and studied hard for a test doesn’t mean that he is an exemplary person. In fact, I might argue that as people add more and more letters after their name, it might become easier and easier for them to forget who – at heart – they really are.
Let me offer some example of what I mean:
- PWWO – Plays Well With Others
- KtA – Kind to Animals
- DE- Demonstrates Empathy
- KP – Keeps Promises
- GH – has a Generous Heart
The list of positive acronyms is endless really. In this new year, I will be thinking about the acronyms I might want to wear. I encourage you to make up your own and to live by them. And while you might not embroider them on your clothes, I bet people will soon realize that you wear your heart on your sleeve. And that, to me, is impressive.