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Life-wise

by Ray Wiseman

Putting up with put-downs

The family gene pool has blessed Jill, my sister’s daughter, with a quick wit and a slightly twisted sense of humour. You can always spot her presence in a crowd by the laughter rippling through the group. Recently she e-mailed me, asking for help with a minor project. I complied; that pleased Jill and brought a speedy response. Her thank-you note contained twelve words: “You’re the best. I don’t care what my mom says about you.”

 

Of course I laughed. I knew Jill and my sister and saw only humour in the remark. I got the point quickly, because the same family traits that characterize Jill also contributed to my make up. In other words, I understood Jill because we are two of a kind.

I grew up near Aunt Emily, who obviously owed her personality to a slightly different selection of genes. She never understood my sense of humour and delighted in telling me that my big mouth would one day get me killed.

Her evaluation contained a lot of truth, for during my teen years I had a number of close calls. Not everyone appreciates the bent sense of humour of a Jill or Ray.

Sometimes we can open our big mouths, intending humour, only to unintentionally hurt someone or ourselves.

Just a few days ago I said goodbye to my friend, Jim, as he climbed into the passenger seat of his car while his wife took the wheel. My too-speedy brain triggered me into saying, “I see they have finally caught up with you and taken away your driver’s license.” They pulled away with only a wave for a response.

You guessed it. His doctor had advised him to avoid driving while on a particular course of medicine. When I realized what I had done, I wanted to crawl under a rock.

Not everyone wants to be funny. Some people use quick rejoinders just to put down people, to deliberately hurt them, and so to boost their own sense of importance.

Just last week I heard of two examples. The seminary student finished her sermon and went to the door to shake hands. Instead of the typical “amen” response, the first man to come by verbally attacked her for preaching too long. She had, in fact, gone three minutes beyond the allotted time. Fortunately, those who followed expressed appreciation for her message.

In the second example, I heard of a teacher pushed into depression by the thoughtless comments of a school inspector.

I’ve had a few of those in my day. Totally inappropriate comments following a sermon, or letters to the editor from people who didn’t agree with what I wrote or, more often, didn’t read carefully enough to understand. I’ve also had a few zingers from people who didn’t like how I drove, what I wore or even how I combed my hair (when I had hair).

Some of them meant well and delivered truth, but too many offered their rejoinders, put downs or squelches simply to boost their own sense of importance. It surprises me that I haven’t slipped into depression numerous times.

But I think I know the answer. My advice to young preachers, teachers and writers when under fire: learn from it, forget the offence and forgive the offender.

 

 

Vol 43 Issue 31

 
 

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