What I Didn’t Know — or What I Didn’t Want To Know (Part II)

by Rev. Peter E. Bauer

Human interaction can become a tricky proposition. You may think clearly before you reply to someone’s inquiry. You may always want to speak well and be sure that your words have meaning. As the Buddhists would say you may display “Right thought, right speech, right action.” Despite that, an encounter with someone who asks a completely inappropriate question can throw a person completely off their game.

You are in a major American city. You know someone who is a bright, attractive professional woman standing at a stoplight ready to cross the pedestrian crosswalk when the light changes to “Walk.” While she is waiting, a well-groomed, well-dressed professional man in his 40s walks up beside her. He, too, is waiting for the light to change. All of a sudden, he turns to her and asks, “What do you know about jock itch?” This not imaginary, but reality in the raw.

Now you must admit that this is not a line that would endear you to someone. This inquiry would not evoke the response of a Rick Blaine who says to Louie as they were walking through the fog in the movie, “Casablanca,” “Louie, this is the beginning of a beautiful relationship.”

So, given that this is not an appropriate inquiry, why would the man say this to the woman? The question is probably better directed to a primary care provider. Here the significance of boundaries is important.

We are living in a time where more and more limits are being pushed. Technology has not helped us with this, but rather has established a platform where more people can voice the outrageous, the crude, the vulgar, the cruel and can hide behind some form of anonymity. I have had people tell me that family members will go on Facebook and literally “out” them regarding choices they have made, and proceed to shame them in front of all cyberspace. I don’t see how this type of behavior really strengthens any bonds among family members; rather, I believe it contributes to fractures and disruption and heartache.

What happened to the world of “Good day, how are you? Nice to meet you! Thank you.” Has this type of civility become passé, too boring, too predictable? Do we need to express a constant shock factor in order to appear important? Once again, this type of behavior might be essential if you are concerned with having high Nielsen ratings regarding a reality television show, but it will not be effective regarding human relationships.

The man who asked for information regarding his “private area” problem might have been more discreet if he asked his question to a workout buddy in the men’s locker room, as opposed to asking a female stranger. Unless the intent was shock. If that is the case, then we might be entering the realm of possible sexual harassment.

Art Linkletter used to observe, “Kids say the darnedest things!”

I think the same thing applies to adults as well. We need to be ever-vigilant about paying attention to our own impulse control. Just because one may have a thought does not mean that it needs to be broadcast to the entire world.

Family members, work associates, church congregants need to, at times, self-censure and allow for a time to think through their responses before they utter them. I have heard from people how family members carelessly make an assumption, carry on a grudge, go to a room, slam the door, have a drink .The next morning, after the whirlwind of this tantrum, nothing is said or acknowledged that the previous response was indeed inappropriate.

Here’s to improving our skills of communicating honestly and effectively with one another. Here’s to being truly known as a person who respects the freedom, dignity, and the integrity of all.

A needed message for the ages.

A most-needed message for our time.

May it be so.

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