On Being a Frustrated Secular Evangelical

I have the solution for all your biggest problems!

There is nothing worse than being convinced that you have a solution to someone else’s problem and yet being incapable of convincing that person to try it your way. Is it arrogant to feel like that? Not if that same thing has worked for you! Surely not.

You’ll have to forgive me. Only recently has it dawned on me that when I serve up a piping hot plate of unsolicited advice, I sound exactly like the type of person whom I despise the most: an evangelical Christian. How dare anyone force their beliefs down the throats of others? The nerve.

But I hate standing by while people suffer when they might not have to. It makes me feel helpless. No. That’s not true. I have plenty of help. Oodles of help to give. For free. So maybe I feel “not helpful”. No, that’s wrong, too, because I’m chock full o’ help, if only people would avail themselves of said help. Step right up, folks! I have the solutions for all your biggest problems!

Maybe that’s why I blog. I can throw these “one size fits most” solutions out into cyberspace in the hopes that someone, somewhere, will pick one up, put it on, and be all the better for it. You’re welcome. Even if you didn’t ask.

The reason I get so frustrated in these instances is that I care. I care deeply. So when someone ignores my ham-handed advice, or, even worse, has a hostile reaction thereto, I become confused.

Can’t that person see I’m trying to save them? Can’t they tell that the advice is coming from a good place, from someone who means well? Why not?

The resulting befuddlement is pretty much my default state. At age 57, it’s about time that I seriously entertain the idea that everyone, including me, might be much better off if I shut my pie hole and minded my own beeswax. And that tells you everything you need to know about what it must be like to be loved by me.

Run. While you still can. My inability to live and let live can be a whole new problem that no one else should have to contend with.

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Be Proud

I think pride is one of the most complex emotions that we humans experience. In the English language, we categorize way too many distinct feelings under the umbrella of pride. That can be problematic, because in some instances pride is a type of satisfaction that is important and positive, and in others it’s arrogance, which is stupid and destructive.

There is nothing better, in my opinion, than being able to take pride in what you do. And hearing that someone you love or admire is proud of you is often the pinnacle of life achievements. Yet in many cultures, pride is almost a dirty word. You’re supposed to be humble. Humility is meant to be your goal. It’s called Tall Poppy Syndrome. Never stick your head above all the other poppies around you, or you’ll risk getting it chopped off.

What a shame. Life is going to grind you down enough without your having to stuff those feelings of self-satisfaction so deep in your soul that you can no longer access them even when they’re merited. When you set a goal and achieve it, I believe you’ve earned some pride.

On the other hand, when you’re too proud to own up to changing circumstances and admit that you’re wrong, you are only making yourself look like a stubborn fool. You will then have painted yourself into a corner that you won’t be able to get out of cleanly, and people will feel sorry for you and lose respect.

And bragging should be avoided. If your pride is at the expense of someone else’s, then it is toxic. Learning how to feel that feeling without crossing that line is a true sign of maturity. Kind of sad that not everyone figures that out.


Don’t Fence Me In

I had been shopping at this grocery store for decades with no complaints. Then one day at the check-out line, the bag boy started walking with me to my car. I glanced down at my two bags and said, “Never mind, I can handle it.” He looked mortified. He said it was now policy that they had to escort every customer to his or her car and put the groceries in for them.

Seriously? Am I three years old now? Do you have to hold my hand while I cross the street as well? If I need help, I’ll ask for it. Sometimes I do, but mostly I don’t. This made for an awkward few minutes as he did his job. I wasn’t irritated with him. He was only doing what he was told. I was irritated at some white guy in a suit in some corporate ivory tower for thinking he knows better than I do what I want or need.

This went on for several weeks, until enough of us threatened to go to another grocery store if they didn’t stop this stupidity. Then, glory hallelujah, things went back to normal. I don’t know who was happier, the bag boys or the customers.

Similarly, I used to go to a pharmacy that suddenly implemented a mandatory automatic refill policy. Whether you liked it or not, they would refill your meds in a month’s time, and then start harassing you with automated phone calls to come pick them up. Well, sometimes I skip doses to stretch out my prescriptions, because I can’t afford the refills. When I want a refill, I’ll ask for it. I no longer do business with them.

It’s one thing to give a customer options. Some may want an automatic refill or assistance with their groceries. Others may not. It’s great customer service to give people choices.

But when you start limiting their possibilities, when you start thinking that you know best, that’s when you alienate people. That’s when you lose customers. That’s when people vote with their feet. I’m not going to be told what to do and give you my money for the privilege. Honestly.


Teen Confidence

I was in the DVD section of the library the other day and I heard two teenagers talking. The girl was saying to the boy in an authoritative tone, “No, you can’t check out that movie. It has too much gratuitous violence.” The boy, who was obviously trying to make an impression, said, “You’re right. I hate that.” And then after a long pause he asked, “What if the guy in the movie is a hero, and he’s being violent to save someone?” The girl said, “No, that’s still gratuitous.” Clearly that was her new vocabulary word and she planned to use it to full advantage to get the poor boy to check out some chick flicks.

Finally, he pulled a couple DVDs off the shelf and said, “How about these?” She let out a long-suffering sigh and said, “I’m still looking. Go and stand over there, and when I’m ready I’ll look at your movies and let you know.” He scuttled off.

Such self-assurance. Such arrogance. Only teenagers and really bad bosses can get away with talking to people like that. I kind of had to chuckle to myself. That girl is going to have a really hard road ahead of her. She’s going to have to learn that her way isn’t the only way. She’ll discover that as she gets older, men are not going to put up with that sort of treatment. Someday she’ll realize that she isn’t always going to be right.

I was really tempted to pull her aside and say, “Honey, you’ll be a lot better off when you sacrifice just a little bit of that confidence for some kindness. And if you allow for the fact that sometimes you’re wrong, an open mind will come flooding forth, and you’ll be grateful for it. And the older you get, the fewer people are going to have a crush on you, so you might want to consider appreciating it when it comes your way.”

I almost said those things, but why bother? She isn’t going to get it. Not for a few years, anyway.

[Image credit: welovedates.com]
[Image credit: welovedates.com]


Growing up, I was taught that policemen were your friends. If you got lost, find the nearest police officer. He would help you. As law-abiding as I always have been, I assumed that all cops were Officer Friendly, and I maintained that view until I was 18 years old.

So imagine my shock as an exchange student in Mexico, when a policeman appeared on the street and every man, woman and child disappeared. Where was everybody going? I quickly figured it out when I realized the man was clearly intoxicated, and was carrying a semi-automatic weapon. And then another officer shot and killed a boy inside a crowded local disco that I had just left an hour earlier. I learned, like the rest of the citizenry, that it was best to avoid interactions with the local constabulary whenever possible. This was a new feeling and I didn’t like it.

I was relieved to come home to America where law enforcement, I thought, was much saner. Then an off duty cop frisked me way, way, way too intimately as I was going to see the Rocky Horror Picture Show. And a few years later, when stopped for speeding (guilty as charged) the officer stuck his crotch in my open window, inches from my face, as he supposedly wrote my ticket on the roof of my car.

And then over the years I have seen evidence of both arrogance and contempt from police officers, and it seems that you can’t read the news today without coming across a story about police brutality. The folks that are there for our safety don’t seem to be particularly safe themselves, and that’s terrifying. So forgive me if you really are Officer Friendly, but if you pull me over, I’m going to keep my hands on the top of the steering wheel where you can see them, and not move a muscle until you instruct me to, all the while thinking, “Please don’t hurt me”. Because I don’t trust you. Can you honestly blame me?

Officer Friendly

[Image credit: pinterest.com]

Ending Sentences with Prepositions

Time and time and time again I have seen people who want very much to be perceived as grammatically superior harp on the fact that someone has ended a sentence with a preposition. Even spell check does it. The very sad thing about this behavior is that in fact there’s nothing wrong with doing so in most cases. Any expert in grammar will tell you so. Here’s a quick and dirty rule of thumb:

If restructuring a sentence to avoid ending it with a preposition makes it sound awkward or as if it had been written in the Middle Ages, don’t do it. For example, “Welcome aboard” is perfectly fine. You could also say, “Aboard you are welcome”, but you’d sound like Yoda or a total pompous ass.

On the other hand, there are a few cases where ending a sentence with a preposition will make you sound ignorant. If you can simply leave a preposition off and the sentence still makes sense, by all means, leave it off. (Off you should leave it? Ick. No.) For example, “I don’t know where it’s at.” Drop the “at” and what you get is, “I don’t know where it is.” Simple. Elegant.

So the next time someone arrogantly points out that you’ve just ended a sentence with a preposition, make sure your sentence passed the two tests above, and if it has, tell them that off is where they should f***.


[Image credit: quickmeme.com]

Ph. Deities

Recently I had a consult with a specialist about a bump that occurred on the roof of my mouth. The minute this doctor walked in I could tell he was going to be “one of those”. The arrogance came off him like a stink.

Sure enough, he was obnoxious and had absolutely no communication skills. He was shocked at my knowledge of oral anatomy (my third useless degree was finally good for something) and he was condescending when he answered my questions. He was so full of himself there was barely room for me in the examination room.

“Oh, honey,” he said, “this is nothing. I could show you lumps the size of cherries!”

I thought, “All right, cowboy, slow your horse to a trot. I’m not here to watch you do tricks.”

But he did reassure me that it wasn’t cancer or a tooth abscess, so that was good. It’s probably a blocked saliva gland. But he couldn’t be sure without doing a biopsy. I said, “That will be expensive, won’t it?”

He replied, “Everything’s expensive. That doesn’t matter.”

I looked him square in the eye and said, “In my world, that matters a great deal.”

I mean, seriously, what a jerk. Since he was sure it wasn’t cancer, I decided to forego a biopsy. I’ll go back if anything changes. To someone else. But every time I feel that bump with my tongue, I’ll think of that dimwit.

I’ve never understood the transformation in so many doctors. I’m assuming most of them get into this career to help people, but somewhere along the way they become “eaten up with the dumb asses,” as a friend of mine likes to say. I suppose that’s bound to come when you do battle with the Grim Reaper on a daily basis and regularly win, but it isn’t the least bit attractive.

I know most mothers want us to marry doctors, but honestly, I couldn’t imagine a less desirable partner than a rude know-it-all. I’m surprised more nurses don’t engage in violent crime. It that is the wake-up call that reminds them why they’re there, it would be fine by me.


[Image credit: allatsea.co.za]

“End of Discussion”

More than one man in my life has said that to me, and it always works. For a split second. Because I’m rendered speechless by the arrogance, the gall, the unbelievable nerve that it takes to even conceive of that sentence, let alone utter it out loud.

It seems to be part of the collective unconscious that allows certain men to think that they have the right to stop women from speaking, that it is they who get to determine when we are and are not allowed to express ourselves. At the very least they must have learned it at the knees of their fathers, and they failed to realize that some lessons are best ignored.

But when you think about it, it makes sense. Study after study suggests that women are much more capable of communicating than men. I read once that on an average day, women use 20,000 words, whereas men only use 7,000. So if you’re going to try to take away a woman’s superior strength, and you already know that you’re most likely picking on someone who is not your own size, then you would naturally go right for her ability to speak, wouldn’t you? That is, if you’re so insecure that you require that kind of a leg up in order to feel as if you’ve “won” a debate. “End of discussion” is the communication equivalent of hitting below the belt. It’s beating a woman down by trying to handicap her very essence.

Here’s the thing that always stuns me about this flawed logic: do you honestly think that pulling the “end of discussion” card won’t permanently damage your relationship with the woman in question in some fundamental way? It may not be evident on the surface, but deep down when a woman is disrespected like that, she doesn’t forget it. She knows that in your soul you think you are superior, and that you believe that you have the right to squelch all communication, and that you can pull that stupidity again whenever the mood strikes you. Every time she speaks from that point forward, the implication is that she has to have your permission. But unbeknownst to you, you have chopped yourself off at the balls, because once you have done this, you have cracked the very foundation of your relationship. On some level, your partner will have lost respect for you. And once that has happened, it is extremely hard to get it back.

And the irony is that ironing things out requires communication. Once you have thwarted that, you may get the momentary peace and quiet that you crave, but the problem not only does not go away, it increases by a factor of ten. Open and polite communication is the pedestal upon which every healthy relationship stands.

Before I get blasted for this particular blog entry, please understand that I do realize that the vast majority of men do not fall within this category. Most are more cultured and respectful than that. Most are capable of civilized conversation. Most know how to have a reasonable discussion without things accelerating to the point where “end of discussion” is the only “weapon” upon which they can draw. In fact, most men do not feel the need to draw weapons of any sort on someone they love.

Real men do not beat their women, either. End of discussion.


(Image credit: flurtsite.com)