Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Practicing Self-Restraint

There is an art to practicing self-restraint. Some people are better at it than others, naturally. Most of us know some basic etiquette, such as not swearing in front of our parents. My brother, for example, has no filter when it comes to dropping the F bomb in front of my mother. My parents on the other hand, practiced great restraint when it came to swearing. If my mom ever swore, it was the phrase "Shit, in plain English!" Somehow, adding the "in plain English" made it less offensive.

We're all offended by different things. Some of it is cultural, some is generational. There are those who are offended for others. I remember last summer, a young man came in the store and was heading back to the cafe to get a coffee. He noticed the cardboard cutout of Curious George in the kids section and quipped, "Hey, have you ever noticed how Barack Obama looks like Curious George?" He chuckled and went on his way. I turned back to my assistant manager and she looked at my aghast. "That's so racist!" she informed me. You are correct if you assumed that my assistant manager is white. Yet she was deeply offended that this man compared Barack Obama to a cartoon monkey. Why was she so offended? She's not black; she's not a monkey; and she's not the president, yet she was offended? She was offended on behalf of the black people. Silly when you think about it.

What offends me? Not much after fifty-three years of life, and experiencing such goodies as military service, three marriages, and working with a variety of people, some of whom even  looked like monkeys. I've always been a great listener and I try my damnedest not to be judgmental -- at least not vocally -- so people tend to be quite loquacious around me. They can be jerks, but most of the time it's because they don't practice self-restraint. There are some reasons that people cannot restrain themselves from uttering obscenities -- such as Tourette syndrome, or some or other mental health affliction -- but let's just assume for a moment that most of us have free will and we can choose what we say to others and how we say it. I'm not just talking about obscenities, but all speech that might leave the recipient feeling slighted.

Let's take my blog for instance. I have been maintaining destined for banality for over seven years, and I write about a variety of subjects. I have also kept a series of journals, on paper and in bits for most of my life. I've found that I have been writing in my personal journal much less lately, and instead blogging here. In a way, my blog has become my personal journal, but I have to practice self-restraint here, knowing that I have readers out there...a couple anyway. I've always been a polite person, and that shows in my writing too.

Now, if you took a look at my religion and politics blog, you could probably find plenty to be offended by there, but just the subject matter should tell you that. Here I try to make my posts palatable for the general public (No NFSW stuff here, that's for tumblr.) I do write about some personal stuff though -- family relationships, drug use (corporate and herbal) and depression -- but I cannot reveal all of my thoughts. There would be people at my door with pitchforks and torches, wanting to roast my ass.

I once had this fantasy that one day a year -- call it Impulse Day -- we could say whatever we wanted to whomever we wanted with no repercussions whatsoever. Impossible, of course, because people have memories. That's probably the biggest reasons one has to chose their words wisely is because the listener, or reader, will remember your words and you may rue the day that you uttered that boast sir. You may have your cheek slapped by a velvet glove and you know what that means...pistols at dawn.

So, remember that even here, where I exclaim "Honesty and Openness at Low Discount Prices!" I have to practice restraint. Sometimes it's what one doesn't say that says it all.

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