In the spirit of Festivus, I have a few things to get off my chest.
Yes, I want my neighbor to quit blasting Freebird from his pickup truck everyday when he arrives home from work. And yes, I want a certain co-worker who loves nature to start loving deodorant. And it is true that I'd like to get hit up less for coin when I walk to the Starbucks down the block from my house. And there is no doubt that I wish my one buddy would quit pretending to be straight and just come out of the closet. And I'm annoyed that a copy editor misspelled my name on an article I wrote last week.
But most of all, I wish Mrs. B would be less tolerant.
No, I'm not asking for my wife to become a jerk. But she is too nice.
That's a cliche, right? We've all heard it, and we've probably all applied it to someone we know.
But niceness is like any other meld of attitude, emotion, and behavior, including sternness, anger, etc.: there can be too much of it.
Mrs. B is so nice that at times she inadvertently becomes an apologist to mean people, justifying her nice behavior to them, while they sulk without cause.
We were just at the dog park with Dog B., and we encountered a mean guy whose overly aggressive dog was pissing off a couple of other dogs, including Dog B., and the other dogs were starting to snarl at his overly aggressive dog to tell that dog to back off. That dog's owner was slow to act, risking an all out doggy rumble. Plus he had a foul attitude. So I called him out, and that made him angrier. And Mrs. B tried to shoosh me, embarrassed that I was snapping on the guy. But you know what? His anger subsided, or he subdued it, and it was replaced with sheepishness. And he got his dog under control.
Mrs. B, ever the diplomat, proceeded to say nice things to calm the situation.
But sometimes that's not the nicest thing to do. Mean people must be checked. And sometimes you have to growl at 'em to check 'em 'cause it's the only language they understand. If you let them go unchecked they won't learn anything.
Plus, mean people have a tendency to be so blind to their own behavior and attitude that if you're too nice to them, they grow accustomed to it and in a weird way start to feel entitled to it. Seriously, too nice equals expected coddling.
When I was 16 and in driver's ed, my instructor was a jerk and a bully. He picked on everyone and regularly tried to humiliate people. Out of habit, when he addressed me I always answered him sir - yes sir, no sir, etc. It was something my dad had required of me since I was a kid. Don't suppose that had anything to do with the military atmosphere?
Anyway, the other kids all answered this instructor yep, nope, yes, no, or with shrugs and nods and shakes of the head. He never said a word to anyone about how we talked to him until the day that I answered him yes, not yes sir, but plain old yes. Know what he did? He pulled me in front of the class and demanded that I say "yes sir" to him. When I asked why, he said because it's what I had always done, and he didn't want it to stop. So I stood my ground. Since he'd called me on the carpet in front of the class, I told him in front of the class that he was a bully who hadn't earned the "sirs" I'd given him before and that until he started showing me some respect he wouldn't get anymore from me, regardless of his age and gray hair. He stopped bullying me after that. He still bullied some of the kids in my class, but not me.
I know Jesus reportedly turned the other cheek. But I turned all four of mine a long time ago. Now, just like I pick and choose my battles, I pick and choose when to present a humble front to a mean person and when to give 'em a dose of their medicine...in a nice way of course.
That's what I want for Mrs. B. She's too nice and has earned the right to answer mean people in kind and do it with no apologies.