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Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Insult: to treat or speak to insolently or with contemptuous rudeness.

"The best way to procure insults is to submit to them." William Hazlitt (1778 - 1830)

Insults are a part of life. Some are intended to be rude and contemptuous. Some are not. We're all quite familiar with the unkind remarks from person to person. Most of us are equally familiar with the unkind remarks we throw at friends as a method of camaraderie and ... affection. How odd!

I'm sure I've had my fair share of insults. I remember, as a kid, trying to figure out how to avoid them. After awhile I picked up a technique that served me well. Insult myself before they can and the response will likely be positive. "Oh, don't say that!" It worked well until I found people faster than me. "You know," I might say, "I'm not as dumb as I look." They'd respond, "Couldn't be and survive." Sigh. That didn't work.

Insults have shaped my mindset over my too-many years. I've moved from being a confident singer, for instance, to a self-conscious one because I've been told too many times not to sing. I once enjoyed playing the musical keyboard until enough people complained that I stunk at it. People will find whatever it is you are proud of or confident about and tear it down.

Of course, my mistake has been to listen. A lot of insults are intended as fun. And it's unavoidably true that I've done enough of those myself. It's play between friends. It's just friendly banter. Some people, if they were to stop insulting you, might make you ask if they're well. You expect it.

Still, I have to wonder about the effectiveness of unkind words shared as friendly conversation. I suppose it's a bit like horse-play, a brief wrestle between pals. But, like those little tussles in which we might engage, you can never let it be known that you're actually hurt. It wasn't supposed to hurt. If you're hurt, it's because you're just weak. Hmmm, maybe that's not a good thing at all.

I try to avoid seriously insulting anyone, but I haven't stopped the practice of playful insults. I wonder if I ought to work at that.

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