Monday, October 25, 2010

Manner Rant

I used to get myself in trouble pretty frequently by running my mouth about the wrong things at the wrong times.

I had to learn as I grew older that I couldn't just spout whatever came to mind without checking if I needed to filter my comments due to my surroundings. It took me a long time to realize some things are better left unsaid, or at least held back until they can be said privately.

In college and at my first few jobs after graduation, I was caught mouthing off about one person or another by someone lurking around a corner. Sometimes I was even stupid enough to say something inappropriate about someone in front of their closest compatriots, or worse, in front the very person I was talking about.

For someone like me, who might suffer diarhea of the mouth but doesn't really want to purposefully hurt anyone, these situations are extraordinarilly embarrassing. In those moments, I feel I not only let down the person I've hurt or insulted, I've let down anyone whose trust I felt I had earned up to that point. It's bad enough to intentionally cut someone to the quick, but to stumble into it like a fool with no control over his own words seems inexcusable.

And, really, if not me or their mother, who can I count on to set an example for our children on how to behave?

Politicians act like petulant children screaming to be heard over each other's din. The celebutants today's society idolizes wouldn't have warranted enough care to be spat upon thirty years ago. And I see so many parents running scared from their children, kowtowing to avoid a "Mommie Dearest" re-interpretation of their child-rearing skills, that there are far too few well-behaved playmates to choose from for our children.

Fortunately, over the years I've managed to cut back on embarrassing myself with my own words from multiple times per year to once every few years. And when I do put my foot in my mouth or act like an infintile ass, I apologize. After all, if I'm not a big enough person to own up to my mistakes and make amends for them, how can I possibly expect to instill in my children the need to behave like proper, mature, responsible human beings?

At the same time, I find it amusing that while I have gained an ability to judge myself more harshly and not give myself an easy pass when I eff up, I find it exceedingly difficult to overlook another person's faux pas. It's another of my character flaws I have struggled to overcome -- taking the comments of others too much to heart. I sometimes lack an ability to understand when someone is kidding around with me versus offering up criticism with either constructive or inflictive intent.

In recent years, I have learned the best way to deal with any sort of criticism is not to take it personally. If someone is truly offering well-inentioned constructive criticism, then the message will eventually get through if I am open to self-improvement. If, however, the intent is simply meant to inflict damage at my expense -- or at the expense of those I love -- then I need to be the bigger person and let the comment pass without wasting my time in response.

Besides, it only damages me if I let it. The one who dealt it was already damaged.


  1. Great blog. I too have struggled with the "foot in mouth" disease and can really appreciate what you have written here.

  2. Fortunately, many of us share foot in mouth disease. While many are afflicted, only the truly penitent recover.

  3. Maybe I'll learn one of these days to filter myself!