On Parading One’s Knowledge

It is a difficult line to tread, between sharing one’s enthusiasm and parading one’s knowledge. A few months ago I was taken to task for expressing delight in some of the work being done by South American type designers. I made no comment on the suitability of the typefaces for any particular use but found myself drawn into an increasingly grumpy exchange on Twitter where my interlocutor was concerned principally with the accessibility of typefaces, especially online, if I remember correctly. At the end of the exchange, I felt as though I had been lectured well and truly and the person I’d been conversing with declared himself angry and went off for a walk to cool down. It was an example of the way in which sharing an enthusiasm can go horribly wrong if one does not take into account the possibility of its being misunderstood. I regret the misunderstanding and would love to put it right, but once one has got at cross purposes it can be very hard to put things straight. One just has to trust to God that He will deal with it and try to avoid making the same mistake in future. I have not made any comment on typefaces or printing since because I don’t want to upset people.

A similar thing can happen on other Social Media. One makes a small point or comment and someone decides to demonstrate that they know much more than one does oneself, or they expand one’s original comment as though one were completely unaware of any other aspect of the case or had intentionally left something out. My usual response is either to say ‘thank you’ or, if I have some doubts about what is said, to ignore the remark. Unfortunately, I do not always follow my own advice, and I am sure I have caused hurt and misunderstanding at times both by my own comments and by my response to other people’s comments. What can one do in such a situation?

I think there are only two possible responses: a simple ‘sorry’, without, please note, going over the rights and wrongs of the case again. That rarely leads to better understanding. ‘Falling out of faithful friends/Renewing is of love’ perhaps, but one has to be good friends to start with. In any case, I am not suggesting that one should avoid expressing one’s opinions or sharing one’s enthusiasms. I think it is the way we do so that needs a little thought. The second response is more humbling but ultimately a way of gaining deeper insight: to ask oneself why one made the comment in the first place. Was one really sharing an enthusiasm or bolstering one’s own ego by parading one’s knowledge? My own conscience is far from clear on that question. How about you?

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How to Apologize by Bro Duncan PBGV

Bro Duncan PBGV gives his advice
Bro Duncan PBGV gives his advice

It’s been a hot, sticky week, and if all human beans are like Them, there will have been some awkward moments when toes have been trodden on, misunderstandings have multiplied and typhoons in tea-cups have rattled the domestic calm. So here is a little lesson in how to apologize by one who is an expert in the subject. I seem to have to say sorry so often — for muddy paw-prints on the floor; positioning myself beside the oven when food is being taken from it; not hearing when I’m called; you know the kind of thing human beans get cross about. My eyes and tail are very eloquent when I have to say sorry, but human beans have to make do with mere words, which often seem to make things worse. So here are a few pointers from me you may find useful the next time you have to apologize.

Let’s begin with what we all know best: how to get it wrong. There are a few phrases you should try very hard to avoid or you may find yourself in the dog-house for ever.

The Wrong Way To Apologize

  • I apologize for any offence that may have been caused.
  • I’m sorry if you were offended.
  • I’m sorry if you found what I said or did offensive.
  • I’m sorry if I offended you.

All that ‘iffiness’ is unconvincing. Before we apologize, we have to acknowledge that we have done something wrong, even if we gave offence unintentionally. For some human beans that is almost an impossibility. ‘I have been misunderstood,’ they cry, or, ‘you must have had a humour by-pass,’ they say, as though the offence were somehow the fault of the one to whom the apology is due. Such apologies don’t usually end very well, believe me. No, you have to (wo)man-up to things and face facts, however hard that may be.

Then there are all those clever little additions which tend to undermine the apology — limitation clauses such as

  • In my defence, it was not entirely my fault (Calculating exact degrees of culpability probably won’t restore harmony.)
  • You can’t blame me for not knowing (But are you sure — shouldn’t you have known?)
  • It was the dog/the boss/Eve (i.e. Blame anyone but me—I’m the victim here. Not a good tactic.)
  • I was only doing what I was told. (Unfortunately, the excuse of mass-murderers and the like. Not recommended.)

or attempts to claim the moral high-ground with phrases like

  • Christian charity forbids my saying more. (Christian charity is probably what was wanting in the first place.)
  • I acted from the purest of motives but . . . (Possibly you did; more probably you didn’t.)

Contrast all these with

The Right Way to Apologize

  • I’m sorry.

Now, I know I am only a dog, but it seems to me that a simple ‘I’m sorry’ is the best apology there is. No ‘ifs’ or ‘buts’, please; no self-justifying rehearsal of the original grievance by way of exculpation; no attempt to wriggle out of things by blaming someone else, the medicine you have to take or the weather being too hot/too cold. If you’re sorry, say so — as simply and quickly as you can; then do your best to put things right.

But what if you can’t say sorry or put things right? Say the human bean you have injured is now dead, for example, or refuses to have anything to do with you? Then I think you must put your paws together and ask God to do what you cannot. He knows about forgiveness, after all. He doesn’t want you to be burdened with feelings of false guilt and shame. He wants you to be what he intended you to be from the beginning— a true image and likeness of himself — and he wants the other human bean to be like that, too. That doesn’t quite let you off the hook, of course. You have to try to put things right, if you can. Don’t use prayer as an excuse for not doing something you find difficult or don’t really want to do.

Lastly, I will let you into a BIG secret. We dogs share a very wonderful quality with our Creator. We forgive utterly. That doesn’t mean we don’t register unkindness or unfairness, or that we don’t consider them important. It’s simply that we don’t hold grudges or prolong quarrels. So, if you are having trouble apologizing, just try being more doggy. It won’t necessarily make everything better all at once, but it may open you up to becoming the human bean you are meant to be; and that will result in your becoming much nicer — nice enough, even, to be owned by a PBGV.* 😉

Love,
Dunc xx

*P.S. I’m still working on Them. They have a long way to go to becoming nice, but it’s my vocation, and I enjoy a challenge.

P.P. S. The community retreat begins tonight, Saturday, 11 June, and last until Saturday, 18 June. Please keep Them in your prayers as They will keep you.Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail