I admit it. I will occasionally indulge in a good rant. I had one today. Mid-rant I caught myself being less than honest about the target of my chagrin. Mind you, I did not blatantly lie. But I did shape the actual narrative to justify my level of indignation. Sadly, the facts simply did not warrant that much passion. Until the truth intruded on my tirade, I felt affirmed by the virtue and brilliance of my position, while feeling angrier about the foolishness of the opposing view. Truth has a way of exposing the fallacy of my perceived awesomeness and other’s awesomelessness. Sigh.
But it’s not just me. I deal with people’s skewed perceptions for a living. Often the first counseling issue on the table involves profoundly lopsided evaluations of people and situations. Those off balance views are usually more in the direction of badder than gooder. I have rarely had to confront someone’s unhealthy positive view of life. Mostly, I hear people paint their boss or spouse in the darkest of hues. When the portrait is done I am usually looking at the likeness of Satan himself. Now, I know truly wicked people exist. I get that. And I know bosses and spouses are all capable of cruel and abusive behavior. Really. I’m there. It happens. I’m talking about the times we see and describe Hitler when we’re only looking at Kanye West. Even on a bad day, annoying and dumb does not equal the personification of evil.
If I’ve learned anything over the years of hearing people’s stories and examining my own, it is that any given person or situation is rarely all or nothing. Now, keep in mind, I sincerely want the world to be as black and white as my wardrobe. Sadly, sober judgement just doesn’t support such a simplistic appraisal. Most people and situations are mixed. By the same token, most circumstances or people do not exist in various shades of grey. You really can’t throw right and wrong, truth and lie into a blender and come up with an immoral/virtue or an honest/deceit smoothie. It doesn’t work that way. In real life: right is still right, wrong is still wrong. But all black or all white is as misleading as all grey. Reality lies in a swirled marbling of both.
Next time you find yourself in a rant about the awfulness of some people or ideas or organizations take a timeout. Here are a few thoughts that might slow your descent into something akin to Clark Griswold’s famous jelly-of-the-month-club rampage in Christmas Vacation:
- You feel smart. You feel empowered. You look dumb. Your rant is the best advertisement for the person or perspective you are denouncing. Unwittingly, you suddenly became a spokesperson for the object of your contempt. If your point is valid, don’t neutralize it with a skewed rage.
- As previously mentioned, when you portray a mixed situation as all black or all white, you’re lying. Your obvious bias makes you look deceptive…mostly because you are. Lying is wrong. Don’t do it.
- If your opinion is genuinely that strong and superior, it will look better wrapped in a respectful and humble presentation. Sarcasm makes you look like a bully. Self-effacing humor makes you look safe and believable.
- The chances of you having the whole story is not good. Sorry. You believe you are well informed on the topic. But if you’re like me, you probably gathered data from sources that mostly agree with you. Take some time to listen to the other side. I’m not saying you are wrong. I’m not saying that neutral is a superior position. Open mindedness definitely has limits. I’m just saying that hearing the other side should mellow your rant and make you a more credible proponent of your own view.
One final note: My own theological, psychological and personal rant topics are fairly predictable. I do have my pet themes and I like to keep my pets well-fed. I’m sure you have favorite causes as well. When I feel a diatribe welling up within me, it seems only fair to warn bystanders. My harangues tend to be shorter and more gracious when I preface the outburst with, “Warning: Self-righteous rant coming. Prepare yourself.” Most people stick around for the opening remarks but then leave when my presentation gets repetitive and uncomfortable. Goodness, I even get bored with my argument after a while. Give yourself and others a heads up that you are about to off. Such courtesy will not be go unnoticed or unappreciated.
But hey…don’t walk out on fortnight no matter how predicable and mundane it gets. Fortnight is the happiest season of all. Go forth and enjoy it.