Each post this week starts with a warning and an admonishment: if you haven’t read Monday’s post first, then you should not read this one yet. You will have no perspective for the flood of negativity that follows.
I got a surprise last-minute invitation by some friends to join them for a Christmas eve dinner. Per request, I whipped up a noodle kugel for the event (if you follow me on Facebook, you have seen the excellent results).
As we waited for the always-late member of the family to show, I chatted with my friends. During one point, while the Mrs. was in the kitchen working on the turkey, I prodded my buddy about the recent nominees for VA Secretary.
There was no reason to go there, other than my buddy has had his issues with the VA and I suspected (but never confirmed) he was a Trump voter. It was entirely unnecessary and wasted a good 20 minutes of the evening on politics for a question I wasn’t even that interested in.
So why did I ask it in the first place? Was it just good-natured poking at a friend? Was it that I hadn’t fully digested the idea of a Trump presidency yet? Was I just being a shmuck?
I’m more than a little concerned the answer is the latter.
Looking back over my life, I am unapologetic about my curiosity and the plentiful questions that are a direct result of that trait. That doesn’t mean I’m unaware or unhappy when I go too far.
There’s a part of me that likes contention; the opposing view conversation with another person that fleshes out ideas and issues. I don’t like conflict, though, and that’s sometimes a hard-to-see tripwire that can cause a disaster when I step over the line.
Across the internet, they love to trot out hackneyed expressions about people giving opinions. This most commonly happens when the opinion is the opposite of what they believe. The short end is that all those expressions are wrong.
Not only is everyone entitled to their opinion, but everyone should express it. Those opinions reveal much about the person, even when expressed poorly or with poor manners.
The issue is mainly how you express your opinion; whether you offer to share your opinion rather than bludgeon someone with it.
I said yesterday that I lie all the time. Of course, that’s a lie. I probably tell the truth most of the time, since I hardly have an exciting or challenging enough life to lie about. That means my opinions are my real beliefs, but not always my real knowledge.
There’s a fine distinction there that’s at the heart of my concern from that holiday discussion: opinions are usually feelings, knowledge is usually fact.
For example, I can get a medical opinion from my Dad, possibly even based on personal experience, but I can get a medical diagnosis from my doctor, backed by knowledge and (hopefully) facts.
I’ve written before that I’m more magician than subject matter expert. I use elocution as my misdirection and linguistics as my cape and – abracadabra – I magically appear smarter than I am.
It’s when I start believing my own press clippings that I get into trouble. That’s when I start inane and potentially damaging conversations like the one with my friend. Or when I take a discussion and go on so long it becomes an argument.
No one likes a smart ass. Even smart asses don’t like a smart ass. And when you’re a phony smart ass, well, that’s just the pits.
Since I retired, I’ve worked hard – really, really hard – to curb that side of me. There are some situations that will always remain, such as Dad and me contesting on issues, but I thought I had made some great progress in, well, not being such a yutz.
And then Christmas eve comes and I do what I did. Cripes.
Obviously, I’ll apologize to my friend the very next time we get together and he’ll shrug it off and we’ll move on. But he’ll probably be thinking the same thing I am…
Why’d I do that?