Sunday, May 31, 2009

Is That Really Necessary?

I have a small article in today's edition of Small Town Newspaper about a local non-profit that meets with kids in fourth grade and talks to them about self-esteem and how drugs and alcohol will never be the answer to what troubles them. The women who run the program told me that the kids who meet with them in a kind of school club are hungry for adult affirmation, the kind of affirmation people used to find at home (at some homes, anyway) but don't so much any more, especially in homes hit hard by the recession.

One of the women said that parents used to spend quite a bit of time talking to their children one on one, but now, in the average American household, parents spend 16 minutes a day talking to their child, and 14 of those minutes are spent criticizing them. So, these smart, funny, warm-hearted women fill the void.

The online version of the story has a photo of the women, and some asshat commented that, because the women aren't as slender as he/she thinks they ought to be, maybe they had abused food instead of drugs or alcohol. Really? Is that all you can say after learning about a program in the public schools that has become essential because parents aren't doing their jobs?

When Husband was in high school, his youth group leader taught him a guideline for judging your speech—is it true, is it kind, is it necessary. Think about what you're about to say, and run it through this sieve first. Then decide if you should still say it.

In the case of what the person said online to the news story, the comment didn't pass any of the guideline questions. It wasn't true OR kind OR necessary. You can apply this guideline to almost any statement, and maybe all you'll need to do is adjust or even remove an adjective here or there. Mainly, you just need to think with sensitivity before you speak.

When we describe someone by mentioning their weight when that aspect about them is subjective or completely unrelated to the actual topic, we might be pointing out something that appears true, but it is neither kind nor necessary.

So, to this online commenter at Small Town Newspaper, you would have been served well to have spent your formative years with the likes of the women in Small Town's school program, regardless of their dress size. It's evident no one ever taught you the principle behind "is it true, is it kind, is it necessary."

You are an asshat—and after evaluating that term, I believe it is appropriate on all counts to use here.


savannah said...

this is a gem, sugar! it's one of those posts that should be printed out and passed out in schools, religious centers of worship*, post offices, libraries or wherever people congregate and are prone to conversation! well done! xox

*i started to type out churches, mosques, etc., then figured i'd surely leave out some sort of house of worship! ;~)

kyle@sift said...

Nicely stated, Robyn.
Asshats like this are one of the main reasons I often HATE smalltown.
Living here is worse than I ever imagined it would be.
I continue to try to make small differences in the lives of people and I am glad you do the same.
How fortunate I am to have found you.

Mark said...

Mr. Asshat; he's everywhere you know. Smalltown, Big City, and everywhere in between. The cool thing is, his polar opposite, Mr. Finefellow, and all his cohorts, vastly out-number him.

MmeBenaut said...

Yes indeed. That's a creed to live by and speak with. I'm going to try it myself. All day today and hopefully all days into the future.
I'm astounded at those 14 minutes but I really shouldn't be. I'm sure that I suffered those myself most of my life from my mother. Only in her later years has she developed some sensitivity. I think it has perhaps dawned on her that I'm a little impervious to criticism from her these days. On the other hand, only a mother can make a fully grown woman feel like she is still 10 years old.

lynn said...

Nice phrase to keep in mind I think.

Those stats are quite alarming. I talk to my son (other two are away at uni) all the time and we play jokes, talk about current events, studies etc.
I can honestly say I never criticise him. I know, I'm very lucky and really don't have to. I have always believed, though, to treat children with positivity brings much better results. Obviously I had to tell them off when they were small, otherwise they would never learn, but never went on and on and made sure they knew where the error was.
Those stats make me sad for the children.

lynn said...

Well, I do agree with that last bit of Mme's too! My mother can make me feel like that in a second. She was critical and I still have a hesitation before telling her something new I am doing, half dreading the inevitable negative vibe. It's a shame. Maybe that's why I am so totally opposite with my own boys.

lynn said...

he he I just received this, going on from Mme and my experiences... It's headed How to Get Back on Those Who Rain On Your Parade.

> This is something to think about when negative people are doing their
> best to rain on your parade. So remember this story the next time
> someone who knows nothing and cares less tries to make your life
> miserable.
> A woman was at her hairdresser's getting her hair styled for a trip to
> Rome with her husband.. She mentioned the trip to the hairdresser, who
> responded:
> "Rome? Why would anyone want to go there? It's crowded and dirty..
> You're crazy to go to Rome. So, how are you getting there?"
> "We're taking Continental," was the reply. "We got a great rate!"
> "Continental?" exclaimed the hairdresser. " That's a terrible airline.
> Their planes are old, their flight attendants are ugly, and they're
> always late. So, where are you staying in Rome?"
> "We'll be at this exclusive little place over on Rome's Tiber River
> called Teste."
> "Don't go any further. I know that place. Everybody thinks its gonna
> be something special and exclusive, but it's really a dump."
> "We're going to go to see the Vatican and maybe get to see the Pope."
> "That's rich," laughed the hairdresser. You and a million other people
> trying to see him. He'll look the size of an ant.
> Boy, good luck on this lousy trip of yours. You're going to need it."
> A month later, the woman again came in for a hairdo. The hairdresser
> asked her about her trip to Rome.
> "It was wonderful," explained the woman, "not only were we on time in
> one of Continental's brand new planes, but it was overbooked, and they
> bumped us up to first class. The food and wine were wonderful, and I had
> a handsome 28-year-old steward who waited on me hand and foot.
> And the hotel was great! They'd just finished a $5 million remodeling
> job, and now it's a jewel, the finest hotel in the city. They, too,
> were overbooked, so they apologized and gave us their owner's suite at
> no extra charge!"
> "Well," muttered the hairdresser, "that's all well and good, but I know
> you didn't get to see the Pope."
> "Actually, we were quite lucky, because as we toured the Vatican, a
> Swiss Guard tapped me on the shoulder, and explained that the Pope likes
> to meet some of the visitors, and if I'd be so kind as to step into his
> private room and wait, the Pope would personally greet me.
> Sure enough, five minutes later, the Pope walked through the door and
> shook my hand! I knelt down and he spoke a few words to me."
> "Oh, really! What'd he say ?"
> He said: "Who f#&%d up your hair?"

Cheri @ Blog This Mom! said...

This is really, really good stuff.

And Lynn? OMG! The joke!! I love it.

lynn said...

LOL good!

Scout said...

Isn't it amazing how we can at least marginally still be controlled by our mothers?

Yes, Lynn, that is a really great joke!

And Mark, I'll try to remember there are more Mr. Finefellows out there—but they don't comment on line as often as they should.

Shan said...

Great post Robyn. And a great point made by the hubby! Lately, I have been trying to purposefully give my kids my undivided attention as I can be extremely distracted in life's daily activities.

This is EXACTLY why I'm not working now (sometimes I have to keep reminding myself). I want to soak in these years while my kids are young and just be around for them and be their advocate in a difficult world.

My mom was for us and I'll always be thankful to her for that. :)