Apr 21, 2014

On Who We Are (and the fact that I occasionally accidentally or on purpose use words I should not)

I try hard to be a genuine person. But, like anyone else, I do tend to filter certain aspects of my personality/range of actions to what I believe will be comfortable to a certain audience, particularly when I am in the stage of getting to know someone and they are getting to know me. Also on social media, I don't talk about certain things, and I don't get as detailed when I do talk about things, and I also usually moderate my impulses.


I'm wondering this morning what makes a good person. Are you still a "good person" if you do things occasionally that you know are wrong? Or inadvisable? This is a thing in my family, I think.

I was having a conversation with my mother and sister the other day and we were discussing our family's tendency to worry our brains to death about loved ones making social faux-pas and how we feel even more embarrassed for those we love than we do for ourselves, when they do something embarrassing in public. For me, that translated to some difficulty when I was a kid.

Loli graduated from Primary recently and came in the Young Womens' program. I tend to watch Loli with a lot of joy and pride. But when she's making ill-advised decisions socially or doing things that I worry might embarrass her or give others the wrong impression, my giant, overwhelming impulse is to correct her. I am trying very hard to shove that impulse down into the depths of oblivion where it belongs. Because if I *weren't* a YW leader, what would happen in those situations? Her friends would help her moderate her behavior by telling her it's annoying or saying "that wasn't nice" or backing off emotionally and she would learn, like any other sometimes-annoying-still-learning-how-to-act Beehive, what is and isn't ok. My job, really, is to be emotional support and a place for advice, if she wants it, and yes, occasionally when I think she needs it but that needs to not be heavy-handed, in those situations. Now, active wrongdoing... that's another matter. If she ever did something actually wrong, on purpose, and repeated it or seemed unapologetic, then I believe that is my place to step in and correct her.

Not in front of everybody, privately.

Having said that. It's funny how we get into these states with our kids where we see every little mistake, on purpose or by accident, and freak out about it inside. At least, I do. I get into a "what does that mean? What will her life be like if she never ever learns not to do that? What will happen if she grows up thinking this is really ok when it's not?" state.

You know what, though? I'm not perfect either.

I swore on the internet the other day, for instance. What would I do if my twelve year old daughter did that? Oh, you'd better believe she'd be in trouble. No social media for a week or something. Yeah, some of you are like, "really? For swearing?" thing is, every family has different things they are trying to help their kids understand. They are related to values that are held dear in an individual family.

Well, guess what. My mother is a convert, and when I was little she struggled to keep from letting off bible swears, in particular. FOr instance, I had no idea that the word "dammit" was actually "damn it," that it involved the word "damn" until I said it in second grade and my friend was shocked and said she was going to tell the teacher. That's how I learned that some of the words my mother said were ones she'd taught me never to say.

By the time I was a teenager she was saying it a lot less. But the thing is. I learned, from that, that good people sometimes swear when they are upset. And so... on a very, VERY rare occasion, I am less motivated not to say swearwords like Damn and Hell than probably some of my LDS peers who never heard a parent say them ever in their life.

Also, I had some friends in high school and in the year after high school, when I worked and lived at home and went to community college, who were great people. Wonderful people. People who were working hard to be good people. Who spoke like the F word was an adjective, a noun, and a verb--a very versatile word, the F word apparently is. I would never say it, and yes it bothered me, but I never thought of it as something that *made* someone a bad person, the words they chose to use.

For me, when I think of language (and here we're getting into writing) I think the worst use of words, the most wicked, would be to manipulate someone or deceive someone. I'd much rather be around someone who liberally sprinkles their vocabulary with salty words than someone who lies. Or someone who gossips.

I think that the commandment about not taking the name of the Lord in Vain is the definition of swearing. I only use God's name when I am speaking directly to him. That is the one that makes me wince, that I would never use. That is the one that is covenant-breaking, I believe. As for the others? Anglo-Saxon. Quite crass, yes. Pretty rude. I'd not refer to feces in general, no matter which word we're talking about, in polite company and for no reason. Or use crude words to describe something sacred like sexuality--that taps into a lot of feelings and sadnesses for me. I'd not use those words for *that* reason.

Bible swears? Yeah, it's pretty rude and presumptuous and judgmental to damn someone or say they belong in hell. I might even be in danger of hellfire myself if I tell someone to go there, or say they're damned. So yeah, that might have spiritual repercussions, too. I should really avoid those words, just in case. I try to. Occasionally, very occasionally, like numbered on one hand, (maybe two) (ok, maybe fingers and toes) I have let one of those loose, and I feel bad if it offended people. But I don't feel bad if they judged me for it--that is their lack of perfection coming out. But I forgive them for it!

Sometimes, when you are working hard on difficult things, or you just have crud handed to you that you do not deserve (we all do!) We have a default bad behavior we are tempted to fall on. I am glad mine involves words and not other stuff I've seen people do. Of course, that does not excuse it. But guess what? You press someone hard enough, you load them down enough, and then put something in their path? They might stumble. On occasion.

Who am I? I am a not perfect person who sometimes makes mistakes. And sometimes gets sad and angry enough to lash out... at myself, not others. It has been a hard month. A hard, grinding few months. And I hope my friends forgive me my lack of perfection. And those who are not my friends? Yeah... I struggle to scrape together enough initiative to care.

Smiley face.


Anonymous said...

Or what if it was YOUR daughter's YW leader cursing on social media??? Being a good example is difficult, especially when we are expressing ourselves online... But we have to remember that others are watching, even when we don't think they are.

Sarah Dunster said...

True. Hopefully everybody supports each other and does not judge. When youth leaders in my ward give others a very bad example by gossipping and shunning others, I try to forgive but instead struggle. Sometimes (ok once) to the point of using the word damn. But honestly? Give me that weakness a hundred times over. And give me a young women leader who uses the F word but does not gossip or judge, rather than the reverse.

Lisa Torcasso Downing said...

I can't believe you wrote the word "crud."

I just gotta share one story from the Bible belt, where I hear the "special" words fly all the time but parents are just as strict as in the Book of Mormon belt. 1) I was subbing in a 2nd grade classroom, dropped a stack of papers and said, "Darn it!" The class went nuts. Nuts. One little girl said she was going to tell on me and a crew of them encouraged her. I was so confused. Darn it? Really? So I explained to them what "darn" means (as in, to mend or fix)and said that, because I dropped the papers, I now need to fix my mess. They bought it. I've wondered what happened when they went home and spouted of "Darn it" when their parents don't allow it. "But Mom, the teacher said it means to fix!" Language. Crud.

Sarah Dunster said...

I like that reasoning. "Shoot" and "darn" and "dang" are mainstays for me, unfortunately. My father in law was taking my son shopping when he was two (son) and he said he was blushing at all the faux swears my baby kept saying :/

Stephanie Clark said...

In my young life, I would say I struggled more when I had leaders who seemed perfect all the time. I would far and away rather see somebody make a mistake and fix it then seem like they had it all figured out. I guess that's a fine line too. You can't effectively lead if you can't be a decent example. But you also can't effectively lead if there is rigid "perfection" being required. Love and forgiveness are of utmost importance. They are something one never runs out of needing to give and recieve.

Moriah Jovan said...

Dear Anonymous, your example of abject cowardice in your judgments totally worth emulating. Because Jesus was totally a coward. So was Nephi. And Moroni. And Joseph Smith.

Stand up and own your judgments or sit down and shut up. I would rather my child be led by a courageous woman who might occasionally say a semi-bad word on social media than a cowardly, petty little woman whose life is so blessed she has time to rag on somebody anonymously on the internet.

Sarah Dunster said...

...we are all fighting battles. Moriah, I definitely find you courageous. And fiercely loyal. I soooo identify with that :) Stephanie....thank you. I think you are probably a wonderful person & I look forward to getting to know you better, too. Anonymous....I hope things are ok between us, whoever you are. If not, I hope you come talk to me so we can work it out.

Lisa Torcasso Downing said...

Moriah .... Is that your real name? hahahahahahahahaha

I guess I can appreciate people who don't swear. I was raised in a family that talked like a bunch of sailors. I didn't realize all families weren't like that. So when bad stuff happens, sometimes the words come out. I just look at my kids (or whoever) and say, "You didn't hear that." But they did. Hasn't killed anyone yet. I think we get a tad uptight about little things in order to pay less attention to the bigger, harder to measure things. So darn, drat, flip, fetch, and shut the front door on folks who fault us for being human. Loved the post, Sarah.