The double-edged sword of a bad decision

At first, I thought someone had turned on a television set somewhere. After all, it’s not normal for people to just start screaming in the middle of a restaurant. But it didn’t last long, so I went back to my hummus and my conversation with my friend across the table. Only moments later, the woman at the other side of the restaurant started screaming again.

From the angle where I was sitting, I couldn’t see her well. But she was pretty much just telling someone to leave her alone. I don’t know who it was. Honestly, I was a little hesitant to look. It went on for a little while until she left, pushing someone out the door with her. Again, I was trying not to pay too close attention.

The only think I could think and say when she left was that somebody was having a really bad day. I’ve had days like that, where I really just wanted to scream at everyone. But does screaming really help?

Shouting womanToday’s verse is Proverbs 9:13.

The woman named Folly is brash.
She is ignorant and doesn’t know it.

As far as I know, there’s no particular reason that Folly (or foolishness) in this passage is personified as female. That’s not a sexist statement. Actually, Wisdom in the verses just before it is also personified as female. Both men and women can be foolish or wise. It has nothing to do with gender.

Now, I didn’t know the woman who was at the restaurant. I’m sure she was having a really hard time, otherwise she wouldn’t have reacted the way she did. But I can tell you the times when I’ve snapped or shouted at someone else because I was having a bad day, it never helped the situation. It usually just made it worse.

In the heat and emotion of the moment, anger makes us feel better. Shouting makes us feel stronger. But it doesn’t actually change anything about us. It really just draws more attention to ourselves.

That’s the double-edge sword of poor choices. When you make your decision, you think you know what you’re doing. But it turns out that you don’t. You just didn’t realize it.

Again, nothing against this poor woman, but I’m pretty sure that blowing a gasket and screaming her lungs out in the middle of a restaurant didn’t end up making her problem go away. I wasn’t privy to the conversation, so I don’t know. Maybe I’m generalizing.

But I know what happens when I react that way. When I’m faced with the option of losing my cool or staying calm, and I lose my cool, I end up hurting people, and I generally make life more difficult for myself.

Life is tough sometimes. And there really are moments when it feels like you just have to scream at someone. But you know what? Maybe it’ll make you feel better for a moment, but that kind of satisfaction is fleeting. And in the process, you’ll run the risk of ruining someone else’s day. Are you really so selfish that you would sabotage someone else’s day just to make yourself feel better for half a second?

That’s not a good trade. It’s not worth it.

Take a deep breath. Get your perspective straight. Sing a song, say a prayer, do something. There are other ways to deal with a bad day or difficult circumstances than going around screaming at people. Do yourself (and everybody around you) a favor and try to think of some. Who knows? You might come up with a solution to your own problem.

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Empty cicada shell on the garage wall at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Keep lice away from your liver

I love language. I love English, I love other languages, and I love trying to make sense of a language I don’t speak in the language I do. I work with some people from Germany, one of whom I’m pretty close to. She and her husband are moving back to Germany this coming Saturday, and Friday is her last official day in the office. I’m going to miss her terribly. What’s more, I’m going to miss our hilarious conversations about language and idiom.

As a fellow lover of languages, my friend and I have had many conversations comparing English to German and vice versa. We had the chance to have lunch together one last time yesterday, so we jumped at it and ran down to our “regular” place, a cozy little restaurant called Caffe Moderne. It was soggy and somewhat nasty outside, not exactly cold but not warm either. I pulled into the parking lot, looking for a space close to the restaurant—not because either of us are lazy but because my friend is about six months pregnant.

I was heading for the parking garage across the plaza, but I thought I’d make one more circuit just in case a spot opened. Well—one did. So I drove up to it and parked. We climbed out and started to go into the restaurant, and this car pulled up behind us, and the lady inside started shouting at us about how we’d stolen her parking space. My first response was horror because I certainly hadn’t intended to do anything of the sort, and I indicated my friend and her obviously pregnant state. The lady’s response shocked me: she shouted, “I don’t care!” and drove off.

Neither of us really knew how to react. I actually felt really bad about it, but I hadn’t seen her waiting for the spot. If she’d been that dead set on it, we certainly wouldn’t have minded giving it to her, but we’re not mind readers. And, seriously, to roll down your window and shout at two strangers about how they stole your parking place? When one of them is obviously pregnant? Really, lady?

Afterward, once my friend and I had calmed down some, we got to talking about how we could have handled it differently. And my friend told me I should have asked her if a louse had crawled across her liver. If it were any other German, I would think they didn’t know English, but my friend is fluent in both, and as much as we love to compare idiom, I knew this had to be something in German.

Ihm ist eine Laus über die Leber gelaufen. Literally it means, “A louse ran across his liver.” It’s used to indicate that someone is in a bad mood. What’s more, it’s used to indicate that someone is in a bad mood about something that doesn’t matter. It’s a problem the size of a louse.

Empty cicada shell on the garage wall at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Empty cicada shell on the garage wall at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Proverbs 14:29.

People with understanding control their anger;
a hot temper shows great foolishness.

I can sit here and criticize this grouchy woman in the car all day long, but how many times have I been in her shoes? Granted, I’ve never rolled down my window and chastised a pregnant woman for taking my parking place. But how many times have I gotten my undies in a twist over things that don’t matter? How many mole hills have I turned into mountains? How much trouble have I caused myself trying to prepare for something that never happens?

I don’t want to admit how often I get irritated or frustrated by life in general. I’d like to think I’m fairly good at letting stuff roll off, but I’m not nearly as talented at it as I should be. If it were up to me, I’d say I’m probably a better person than the lady in the car because I don’t take out my frustrations on other people. I don’t automatically, selfishly assume that everyone who gets between me and what I want is intentionally trying to hurt me. But I feel that way. Just because I don’t express those feelings out loud doesn’t mean I haven’t felt them, that I haven’t thought them, that my heart hasn’t whispered those things to me and I let myself believe them. So there’s no better person in this circumstance; there’s just one who does a better job of keeping her mouth shut.

So am I saying that we shouldn’t get upset about stuff? Not at all. There are some things in life that are worth speaking up about. There are some instances where you need to speak up and try to stop what is about to happen or to try to prevent something from happening again in the future, and there’s no cookie cutter description to identify those times. You just have to choose them for yourself. That goes back to choosing which hill you want to die on.

But think before you speak. Give yourself a moment to consider what you’re getting upset about before you shoot your mouth off. Ask yourself if you’re being unreasonable and talk through it logically, and if you can’t talk through it logically, you’re too upset to be communicating with anyone. It’s very likely that the person you’re getting ready to spit nails at doesn’t even realize you’re upset with them.

All I can say is that I’m glad this lady didn’t have an ichthys on the back of her car. If she did, I’d have something else to say about her behavior.

In any case, the more upset you get about things that don’t matter, the more idiotic you look to the people you’re screaming at. You may think you’re standing up for your right to park, but really you’re just demonstrating an immense lack of self-control. And then when you top it off by implying that a pregnant woman should just be grateful to hike across a parking lot in the rain, you’re just coming off like a psycho.

Let it go. There’s more to life than where you get to park your car, although I doubt anyone in Wichita ever believed that. There’s more to life and living than the tiny little insignificant issue you’re facing right now. To draw from the German idiom, keep lice away from your liver.

Life is bigger than its tiny irritations. Stay focused on the things that matter. Trust me; your life will be much happier. And you’ll be far less likely to irritate the writer who intends to use you as an example of childish behavior in every blog post, short story, dramatic sketch, and novel from here to kingdom come. Maybe this lady should apply for a job at Verizon….

Big, bright rooster at the Kansas State Fair, Hutchinson, KS

Don’t be stupid

I don’t like calling technical support numbers because inevitably I end up talking to someone who thinks I’m a moron. I would much rather try to figure the problem out on my own with Google’s assistance than to spend the time to call somebody. I think half of that is proving to myself that I don’t need help, even though I recognize that’s pretty silly. But every now and then, you have to call. You have to face the fact that you don’t know everything and that some technical issues are beyond your control.

A recent example? My mom and I have been customers of a cell phone company since February, and while I’m sure their service works fine for people who don’t use their phones so much, it’s really not working for us. In fact, I think we’ve both already worn out the phones we bought from them, plus the fact that the coverage at my house is pitiful (even though they told us it wouldn’t be). So we decided to switch to a nationwide carrier, one that my company offers an employee discount for, and I’m not going to say which one (can you hear me now?).

Mom and I completed the transaction to set up the plan and purchase our phones yesterday afternoon. Well, by the evening we had both received phone calls from this company telling us that there was something wrong with our request to transfer our phone lines. Okay, without going into a whole lot of boring detail, let’s just say I ended up on the phone with them at 7:30 last night trying to figure things out. First, I spoke to a very nice young lady who told me exactly what she thought was wrong and gave me instructions on how to fix it. I got the information she needed and called back. And that’s when I talked to “Mike.”

Have you ever experienced that aha! moment when someone answers the phone and you know instantly that they’re going to be rude? Yup. That was “Mike.” I could tell even in the way he said hello that this wasn’t going to be a pleasant conversation. Now, in all fairness to him, I’m sure he was just trying to help, but he was incredibly full of himself. He told me that he couldn’t even look at our account because our numbers weren’t live yet, and whoever I talked to before had been making stuff up, and that he was going to solve all my problems for me. You can always usually tell people who are trying to make themselves sound more official because they use big words that don’t fit the context of what they’re talking about (“on the 19th, your phone account will come into fruition”).

I was really, really irritated. Not only did this guy talk to me like I was a child, he went so far as to tell me that his coworker had given me bad information. He wanted to call our current cell phone provider right then, and I know that’s what they’re supposed to do to verify information, but honestly, he was so unpleasant I didn’t want to deal with him anymore. I just didn’t want to talk to him. So I dismissed myself as quickly as I could and called our current service provider myself.

And as I was waiting to talk to them, I started getting worried. Maybe I had misjudged “Mike” and he really was right about what he’d said. Maybe I’d made some other huge mistake in the account setup process and this was going to take longer to fix than I’d thought! … But then, the very helpful lady at the other service popped on and confirmed everything the first gal I’d talked to said.

“Mike” had been blowing smoke the whole time.

So I called back and talked to a super nice southern gentleman who helped us get everything sorted out, so now we’re good to go. But I remembered a very important lesson about how treat other people that I really felt led to share this morning.

Big, bright rooster at the Kansas State Fair, Hutchinson, KS

Big, bright rooster at the Kansas State Fair, Hutchinson, KS

Today’s verse is Proverbs 12:1.

To learn, you must love discipline;
it is stupid to hate correction.

Everybody makes mistakes. Everyone will be wrong at some point in their life. Just expect it. You’re not perfect, and believe it or not, making mistakes is how you grow. But you only grow from your mistakes if you learn from them. You’ll only get something out of what you’ve done wrong if you recognize that it was wrong and that you shouldn’t do it again.

But time after time, what I’ve noticed is that the people who are the most unpleasant about their knowledge are the ones who are usually wrong. I know a lot of smart people, and the ones who are stuck up and snobby about their intellect are the ones who can’t seem to give me correct information. On the other hand, the really super smart people I know who are humble about the size of their brains are the ones whose input I can trust 100%.

The lesson here? Be pleasant and humble about what you know, even if you are 100% sure you’re right, because you may discover that you’re wrong some day and it’s a lot easier to save face if you’ve been humble about it from the beginning. Remember, even though you’ve worked to attain your intelligence, intellect is a gift from God. You didn’t wake up one morning and decide to be a super genius. That’s not how it works.

So be nice. And also … don’t talk to me like I’m a moron. Because you may end up in a blog post.