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Monday, February 25, 2013

Feeling Like a Social Oaf

When I feel like a social oaf and make boneheaded mistakes lacking in any trace of the social graces, I step back and look at the true origin of the blunders. This helps me to stop whipping myself out of embarrassment and consternation—to break the recursive loop of asking myself again and again how could I have been so rude, callous, or cruel. For example, yesterday when I was visiting a church, I asked a lady of uncertain age if a soloist of about 20 years-of-age was her grandson. She quickly corrected me that, no, rather the little toddler was her grandson. After the service I attempted to engage a long-time acquaintance in a rather lengthy catch-up of happenings only to have him reluctantly cut me short because he had immediate responsibilities to perform. In both cases, I sought to do the loving thing executed with the ease and grace of an ice-skater gliding effortlessly on the ice--only to find myself sprawled out spread-eagle on the floor. With my heart so much in the right place, how could I have blundered so badly?

The ultimate source of virtually all social blunders is a lack of complete knowledge. A full and complete knowledge of the situation and the person or persons encountered would allow me to do the right thing--not just try to do the right thing. But in social situations we never have complete knowledge especially when in unfamiliar environments. Therefore, I simply must accept the fact that so long as I do not retreat into a shell like a clam (which itself would be impolite), I will be vulnerable to committing faux pas now and then. On such occasion I must remember that people are largely forgiving--especially since they realize that I could not have known all the facts—and that, after all, my heart was in the right place. I remember in the hospital when my wife Kathy was seriously ill, a nurse wanting to be congenial and compassionate asked if the patient was my daughter. I explained that no, she was my wife. I hope and pray that the nurse understands how much I appreciate that she made some personal connection with me at this painful time, and it means absolutely nothing to me that she did not have complete knowledge--she had knowledge enough, my wife was deathly ill.

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