I learned early in my Marine Corps career that problems don’t follow you. When you find yourself involved in constant calamity, you are the problem. I want to cover three quick effects of living in a culture that embraces problems.
- Dictated conversation. It can be referred to in a number of ways. Your conversation is not socially acceptable, it is not politically correct or it might not conform to societal norms. Regardless of the method used to describe speech, controlling speech is the goal of many organizations. It can be in social groups, political arenas or in your local church. I encourage people often, do not say everything that comes to mind, this is a dangerous practice. Equally as dangerous is silencing dissenting comments and views. Conformity, can be very good in a law abiding society. Yet, this same conformity can be used to squelch free speech and control the masses. Remember this concept the next time you vehemently disagree with a speech or conversation. Freedom of speech is a two edged sword, be careful how you wield it.
- Interpret every action. I remember a confrontation that I avoided in Hawaii years ago. I was sitting in a restaurant daydreaming (still a common activity) when a gentleman started confronting me. It appears in my daydreaming I was staring at him for an uncomfortable amount of time. I assured him no harm was meant and we settled the situation as adults. The example illustrates a misinterpretation of an inaction in reality, but we will call it an action for this discussion. The danger of interpreting every action a person appears to be doing can be reckless. In society today, we sometimes look for cues, catalysts, provocations or the apparent use of the previously mentioned. People give much less thought to actions than another person does. Most people are trying to survive a very busy day with as little collateral damage as possible. If you are unsure of their intent, just ask them. You might be surprised and make a friend in the process.
- Fire people for non-conformity. Not so many years ago, people could make mistakes or misstatements without it being detrimental to their career. The days of forgive and forget are waning. Every mistake, misstep, faux pas if you will is looked upon as a calculated, diabolical plan that is at the very least deliberate. I remember a line from the old 1980’s movie Stripes with Bill Murray. They are in Army boot camp and this character named Francis is describing his neurosis to the entire platoon. Francis, says “If any of you touch my stuff, I will kill you. If any of you call me Francis, I will kill you.” This scene is hilarious, but maybe a characterization of how people are held “accountable” in today’s society. The Drill Instructor says “Lighten up Francis”. This is good advice for employers, people in management and just everyday people on the streets. “Lighten up Francis”.
The ability to laugh at yourself is an art that is desperately needed in our day and age. When you look close enough at works of art, you see every flaw, yet step back and beauty abounds. We have lost some humanity with our goals of perfection. Permitting flaws and mistakes is so human and makes life so enjoyable. I have witnessed perfection many times in my life, a baby trying to walk for the first time immediately comes to mind. Remember that analogy the next time you expect someone to be perfect.