I’m not sure exactly when the societal shift took place, but nowadays it no longer seems possible to discuss opposing ideas without red-faced rage, acrimony, and ad hominem attacks. Ashamedly capable of a good rant myself, I’m trying to discipline myself not to feed the beast. In the quest of being “informed,” I found myself reading way too much news, listening to way too many snarky podcasts, and visiting way too many inflammatory blogs.
I scaled back. A lot. Now I hope to remain informed enough so that my head is neither filled with air nor stuck in the sand, but not so “informed” that I am absorbing negativity and vitriol through every pore. This is a tough balance to maintain.
In The Modern Handbook for Girls (1933), Olive Richards Landers writes, “[One] thing that helps give us emotional balance is to let our admirations govern us, rather than our disgusts. Some girls seem to think it gives them distinction and an air of discrimination to ‘loathe’ this and ‘despise’ that. It is in better taste, and shows a finer spirit, to dismiss from thoughts and conversation what is loathsome and despicable, displacing it with what you can admire.”
I’ll leave you with some wise words written by that doyenne of charm, Margery Wilson, back in 1928:
“The best explanation of your standards is your own life. The way you live and conduct yourself bespeaks your opinions more loudly than anything you can say. If you are fine you can afford to be charitable toward those who are not. One can always say, ‘Perhaps we do not know all the facts.’ Or, ‘There may be extenuating circumstances.’ . . . A good blanket remark that covers all inharmonious gossip or discord without offense to either side is, ‘It is certainly most unfortunate.’ And you will have spoken the truth. It is not only unfortunate that human beings should err, but even more unfortunate that other human beings cannot be more kind.
“A woman astonished me the other day by saying that she did a great deal of good in the world by telling people exactly what she thought of them. Her mouth was a thin, indignant line. Her movements were jerky little stabs of outraged righteousness. I have no doubt that she does some good, but her method is so faulty as to make the effect on others temporary to the point of hypocrisy. And just see what she is doing to herself! The lasting influence of a constructive approach to the problems and faults of others makes it the only logical one.”
You be constructive out there!