If there is one lesson that my Grandfather passed on to me, it was the value in respecting others. He had a knack for realizing when I was mindlessly griping about someone and instead of agreeing with my summation of the situation, he would usually purse his lips together for a few seconds and then simply tell me, “Don’t worry.. If you can’t work through your emotions, God will give you many more opportunities.”
After about the tenth time of hearing that, I learned not to cast my gripes about other people on Gramps. I realized that he didn’t once “listen” to me and acknowledge the other person’s fault in my diatribe. How dare he not take sides with his own Grandson!
Like so many other things in life, it took me a while to realize the brilliance in Grandpa’s favorite adage. Not only was he not in agreement with me but he was making me think about the pettiness of the situation and how I could overcome the frustration of the circumstances. I needed to focus on me as the problem and less on changing the other person’s view, which is something that will never happen anyway.
Being petty is a learned behavior that most of us come by quite naturally. It’s an unfortunate part of our culture and examples of pettiness can be found in almost limitless supply in just about any part of life we examine.
Work? All around us. Sports? Egos run rampant and create the perfect environment for pettiness. Religion? Probably the main stomping grounds of pettiness. Online? Visit any forum on any topic and check out the endless threads and the angry dispersal of opinions therein.
As we age, our belief system becomes more rigid and it’s easy to become less accepting of others. The most trivial of matters take on more significance when they oppose any aspect of what we deem as “the truth”. Simple disagreements are viewed as personal attacks.
How to Cure Pettiness
1) Listen to Others. Realize that everyone deserves to have an opinion and respect that opinion. Developing a more entrenched belief system is part of learning who you are. Indeed, most everyone will feel a great deal differently about aspects of life at 40 years old than they did at 20 years old. That’s a good thing. It’s called “growing up” and developing this core value system turns boys into men. Having a firm belief doesn’t mean your view should be the universally accepted view on every matter.
2) Consider that you might be wrong. Grandpa realized that the kid version of me was more consumed with “being right” than ever entertaining the idea that I might simply be wrong. None of us are always right. Might this be a time when you’re simply wrong?
3) Understand that it doesn’t matter. You will know that maturity is setting in when you can finally abstain from arguing about every opinion you feel a strong opposition to. Life is short. Don’t waste your breath trying to convince others to see life as you do because we all see it differently. That’s just another facet of this beautiful world that we all get to be a part of. Anything less makes us one step closer to a civilization that more closely resembles George Orwell’s 1984 society. Rather you’re right or wrong (assuming there is such a thing), it makes no difference in the end. It doesn’t make you more clever to “win” an argument and it makes you no less wrong to not argue on behalf of your beliefs.
4) Take a step back. Grandpa was challenging me to view the situation from a further distance and understand that controversy only existed if I helped to create it. I could not progress in my own personal growth until I quit allowing this to happen. We often become too emotionally involved in a situation too quickly. By learning to step back and understand the gravity of the situation, we’ll often realize the insignificance of our opposing views.
5) Don’t get angry and love more. There are only two responses that you can have to any situation. One is out of love and the other is out of fear. When we harshly object to the sentiment of another, we are responding out of fear. We become angry because we’re afraid. It’s frightening to feel that our core belief system might contain marginal errors because we subconsciously view that as failure in ourselves. It’s not. We’re all on this earth to learn and none of us have all the answers. Responding with love is worth far more to your personal growth and development than a retort formed out of anger, which can have no value.
I was admittedly a slow learner. I suspect Grandpa knew that about me as well but he was kind and patient and the greatest illustration of showing others how to live through example. He taught me that being petty was of no value and forced me to consider how I wasn’t only an active participant in pettiness but a creator. He taught me how to completely eliminate pettiness from my world. He supplied the means to an end and although it took me a few years to understand, I finally got it.
If you’re anything like I am today, you’ll see the value in learning how to quit being petty. If you don’t, I can respect that too.