Maybe it’s you

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We are all hearing how society, as a whole, has apparently reached new lows of rudeness and strife in our everyday interactions. It’s easy to blame the pandemic. In reality, I am just more and more convinced that we are not blessing each other’s hearts quite enough. By that I mean we are not checking each other on our poor behavior — with civility, of course.  

At the risk of sounding conceited, I was “raised right.” Like many of my peers, I had a wonderful childhood. I was blessed, truly. That said I was also given a parent and extended family that would correct my behavior when necessary. I was an angel, obviously, but maybe once or twice I strayed. Stop laughing, Mom. I was not a perfect child. I was, however, corrected when I was not. I am eternally grateful. Learning to regulate our behavior and emotions is a gift that keeps on giving.  

My mother’s famous phrase was “sass will get you slapped.” Rarely did she ever, but I knew the threat was real. 

Once, as a “mouthy” 14-year-old with my friends in tow, I felt particularly big for my britches. I was undoubtedly showing off for my friends and thought my mother would keep her “company manners.” I was wrong. I remember saying something sassy and the next thing I knew I did indeed get slapped. 

Two decades later one of those friends and I reconnected over dinner to catch up. We were now-grown adults with children of our own. On our trip down memory lane, she said, “Do you remember that time your mother shocked us all when she slapped you?” 

There was a brief pause before she added, laughing, “You deserved that.”  

Mr. Wonderful was similarly raised well. He grew up with morals and a strong work ethic. He doesn’t allow frustration to determine his reaction. That has served him very well in business.  

Together we conspired to raise our children the exact same way. They were not always perfect but they were always a work in progress. We stressed accountability and taught responsibility, respect, and values. General feedback is that we succeeded. They are likable and if conflict does arise, they seem to handle it maturely with grace and an eye toward respectful problem-solving.  

I am proud to say that their peers are all very much the same. I may have my rose-colored glasses on, but I find that the young adults today are generally delightful. They are hard-working, respectful, and seem to go out of their way to be kind. 

Generally, it isn’t “kids these days” that I see acting up. Those offenders are older and certainly old enough to know better. My young adults and their friends all worked in service positions with the public as teenagers. Witnessing grown folk throw entitled tantrums will certainly teach a young person how NOT to act. 

In that vein, on the eve of Girl Wonder’s wedding, an adult restaurateur cursed out both she and I in three separate telephone calls — all of which ended in him hanging up on us. That’s honestly a feat with today’s mobile devices. Have you ever tried to slam down a cell phone? It’s distinctly unsatisfying. 

In his ire, this man insisted she had booked his venue for a wedding rehearsal dinner (she didn’t). We attempted to reason with him, pointing out that he had no contract, no deposit, and had never spoken to her about a menu. There was obviously a mix-up, but absolutely nothing would convince him that she hadn’t stood him up. Instead of speaking civilly in an attempt to get to the bottom of the obvious mix-up, he cursed and screamed. Granted he did call me “lady” quite a few times while bellowing, but I feel like his heart wasn’t really in it.  

I was initially livid that he had blemished my daughter’s enjoyment of her rehearsal dinner. I then asked around and checked reviews, to learn he has a long-standing issue with anger. Now I’m just sad for him. That is no way to live. How does he ever solve problems that way?

Obviously, everyone can have that “one-off” moment of poor behavior. I like to extend grace as none of us is perfect. Nonetheless, don’t we all know someone that just seems to have an issue with darn near everybody? Every cashier, clerk, colleague or customer has offended and wronged them in some way.  

When you find yourself feeling that way I think it’s important to take a step back and consider one simple truth in the wise words of my mother — and probably everyone else’s too: “If you seem to continually be having issues with everyone around you, have you ever considered that the problem is you?” 

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Kymberly Foster Seabolt lives in rural Appalachia with the always popular Mr. Wonderful, two small dogs, one large cat, two wandering goats, and a growing extended family.

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