Thursday, October 28, 2010


"Think of it this way," she said. "What is the basic courtesy you would show a stranger?"

I stared. What had that got to do with the price of fish?

"It's called my lowest common denominator rule," she continued. "When you're angry, when all you want to do is lash out or turn cold, when all those biting words are bubbling up in your insides waiting to spew, stop and consider what you would say if you were talking to a stranger. There would be a basic modicum of respect and politeness. Treat the "friend" as if they were a stranger."

"Wouldn't that be rather cold?" I wanted to know.

"As opposed to? Chewing them out? Attacking their soft underbelly? Vomiting out words they will never forgive and if they do forgive, never forget? Is that what you prefer?"

She had a point. I had to admit it, running my mind along my various excoriations. If I couldn't be nice, if I couldn't be warm, if I couldn't be caring, I could at least be civil.

It wouldn't cost me anything. Except the sleepless night once guilt kicked in and I was sorry for what I said, or the anger that lived on from the scene that ensued, where I went over what I had said and wished, wished, wished I could have thought of something far worse, escalated it in my mind, till the gleam of the knife I carried was dulled with blood. Whosever blood it was.

Plunge, plunge, plunge into that soft underbelly.

That's the way it goes. That's the way it has always gone.

But now, "At least, try to be civil. You were taught the basics of courtesy. Here's where you're supposed to apply them. Ugly, bile-spewing arguments are not acceptable once you're past 10. At most 11."

I nodded sadly. It had taken me so long to learn this.

So, Thumper, what did your father tell you?

"If you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all."

1 comment:

Tudor Rose said...

This is twice in the past, oh, two weeks I've seen something written to this effect. The other being the old "Two wrongs don't make a right."

Often I wish I had been reminded of these words of wisdom about a month before I, erm, "flew off the handle" so to speak a few weeks ago.