Several weeks ago I got into a fight with someone I was once close to. I told her that we just shouldn't be friends, that I didn't know how to be a friend to her and she didn't know how to be a friend to me. (We'd been fighting for months about one stupid thing after another.) She was enraged and retorted with "No one's ever going to love you because you don't know how to be a person."

My reaction to this was to chuckle at the childish outburst. Later when things had settled I started thinking about the statement. I didn't think she was right, but I wondered exactly what she meant about that. Exactly what makes up a person? How do you go about being a person? So I decided to turn it into a research project.

"I'm a person!"

I was watching MASH with my father one afternoon when I heard Radar exclaim this joyously. I perked up, what a coincidence. I was wondering what it meant to be a person, and here Radar was giving me his answer to that question. For him it was to be tall. Everyone who has seen the show, and I suggest you tune into FX and watch the reruns if you haven't seen it before, knows that Radar is a younger character on the show..and he's quite short. So when he receives his lifts in the mail and is finally elevated to the height of an average man, he exclaims excitedly that he too is a person now.

So to Radar, a person is someone who is of average height or more. Somehow I don't think the vertically challenged would appreciate that, though it did serve its humorous purpose for the show. No, I must search on for the answer.

"Biologically something that looks like us; intellectually, a human that thinks and is semi-cognizant..."

I asked my friend Zeke what he thought it meant to be a person. He's studied the great poets and authors of the ages, and can recite the most beautiful quotes by these greats at any given moment. His answer was that being a person was about thinking and feeling. That might be partially right. I think it lends more to being human than being a person.

Defining the word
Maybe I should start with the word person then. According to the Oxford Color Dictionary in front of me the definition is as follows:

1. individual human being 2. one's body 3. (in grammar) one of the three classes of personal pronouns and verb forms, referring to the person(s) speaking, spoken to, or spoken of

Once we throw out the irrelevant grammar and the fact that we aren't discussing body parts..we're left with "individual human being." So according to those who wrote my be a person you must be an individual human being. Well that makes are, after all, one being and not several. Still..I don't think that's what was meant by "you don't know how to be a person." I guess if I were to procreate I could in fact be two or more beings at one time, but I am sticking to my guns that she didn't mean I'm incapable of being unpregnant and therefore only one being instead of several. (Note: I have never been pregnant so, no, I am not a baby factory.) I'm just going to ignore the micro-organisms that live in us all for the sake of not confusing the issue further.

Google it
My theory in life is that if you have a question and neither your friends, the television or the dictionary are it. There's bound to be something somewhere on the internet that can help in some way. So I typed in "How to be a person" and hit google, these were the topics that came up:

I couldn't believe I'd hit so many worthwhile topics, the last of which was exactly what I was looking for or seemed that way, so I began to explore. Unfortunately "How to be a person's close companion" was about guide dogs; "How to be a person of strength" was a date for a lecture by an Abbot in Texas; and, "How to be a person people respect" was another date for a lecture by a Pastor in Wisconsin. Still, we are left with the first and the last topics on the list, and they seem worthwhile indeed.

How to be a person of true character - according to Kathleen Gage
Ms. Gage describes a person of true character as one who learns from the past, pushes through their mistakes and continues forth towards their goals. Respect for themselves and for others is present in these people at all times. True character is taking a bad situation and instead of placing the blame on other trying to find a way to work around it and move past it.

How to be a person - according to the Chi Kung Culture Society of TAIPEI
As we grow up and learn the significance of life, we learn how to be a person. When we're young we tend to see things from one angle, our own perspective. We aren't capable of putting ourselves in someone else's shoes. By focusing on our friends and ourselves we become unable to see the more important things, one of which is the meaning of life. We need to cast off these things and try to discover our true face. Only when we are ourselves and act naturally, feel stable within ourselves will be a person.

Drawing my own conclusions
If I take everything I've learned and ball it all together I am left with this, in order for you to be a person you have to:

  • respect others
  • stand back and look at the big picture
  • be true to yourself in all that you do

When I look at the list I can see how Radar and Zeke and even the dictionary were right all along. Radar wasn't being true to himself. He's short, that doesn't make him less in anything other than stature. As a person he is still an extraordinarily good human being. And when Hawkeye told him that he was tall on the inside, Radar realized his error and was happy again. And still a person.

Zeke was referring to respecting people, considering their feelings instead of just doing what's best for yourself. This also entails looking at the big picture. How can you respect someone else if you don't look at things from their perspective first?

The dictionary agrees with Radar. You are an individual human being. Do what makes you happy, what represents the true you. In this sense the you that is the individual not the blind following the masses. (Okay so they didn't really mean that when they wrote the definition but it makes sense to me.)

As for me, well I feel like I've been a person all along. I was being true to myself when I decided that our friendship was hurting more than it was helping and ended it. I was looking at the big picture when I said that neither of us were good for the other, I realized that I just wasn't capable of putting up with her rages induced by psychological problems as well as chemical imbalances caused by her medicines. I just don't know how to be a friend to someone who uses me as a scapegoat for her problems and demands apologies for things I never did. It's possible I wasn't respecting her. Whatever the case may be, I will take what I have learned from this investigation and go forth...a person.

The Oxford Color Dictionary & Thesaurus, Oxford University Press, 1996.
Chi Kung Culture Society of TAIPEI,
Turning Point Presents,