One of the things I like about myself is my ability to analyze situations instantaneously, formulate my thoughts rapidly, and speak my mind.
The other day, I joined a small group of friends to play ultimate frisbee and over the course of one hour I was able to offend at least two of them using my “amazing” ability. In the moment, I wasn’t aware of how my words affected my friends, but later in the day, I picked up a book and gained a little perspective.
The book was,Talks to Boys, by Eleanor A. Hunter. It contained grandmotherly advice specifically aimed at helping boys become gentlemen. When I got to the chapter “On Teasing,” I was stopped cold in my tracks. It was like a bucket of cold water had been thrown on my conscience. Let me share some of what I read:
The chapter opened with this paragraph, “It seems to me that one of the most annoying traits of character one can possess is a disposition to tease, for when that disposition is freely indulged there is nothing that can cause more unhappiness to others. To be obliged to spend one’s life with an inveterate tease is like living in a bramble bush, or suffering constantly from the torture of innumerable pin-pricks. To be sure, one pin-prick is nothing much, but when one has to bear ten thousand of them it is quite another matter” (Hunter, p. 86, emphasis mine).
The problem I had earlier in the day wasn’t actually my sharp wit. The problem was my application of it. When a girl missed a point-scoring toss, she apologized, and I made a joke about her apology. When a guy put out a silly challenge, miscounting the number of players on the other team, I announced his miscalculation to the world in a “funny” way.
My friends didn’t come to play frisbee with a cactus, but there I was, ready to poke them whenever they made the slightest mistake.
On the next page, the author went on to say, “I think that a genuine tease is always a coward, for he never attacks his equals: his victims are the helpless animals, the little child, the timid woman” (P. 87).
I would modify this slightly. I would say, “a genuine tease… never attacks his superiors (to their face).” I consider my friends my equals, they certainly do not appear to have authority over me- to fire me, punish me, etc. This makes them easy targets. If I can get away with a joke at their expense, then no problem. Right?
Wrong. I see now how cowardly being a tease really is.
I don’t want to be the kind of person who gives pin-pricks in exchange for friendship.
I want to use my sharp wit to formulate phrases that are gracious, helpful, healing, and true.
“[The tongue] is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.”