Over the years I have coined a phrase that describes the social tension that is created when people interject themselves into the lives of others unnecessarily. Due to the tremendous emotional insecurity that exists in most people who populate this earth, most folks spend an inordinate amount of time trying to control the people around them so as to attempt to order things in such a way that they can feel good about themselves. Inevitably the controlling and demanding activities of one insecure person will impinge upon the controlling and demanding activities of another insecure person and a conflict will erupt. Even those who have no desire to control others can be sucked into these conflicts if they are not careful to run from them the moment they realize what is happening. The phrase I use to describe these tense social situations is "elective grief."
Elective grief is grief that does not have to come into existence. There are lots of things to grieve about in this world that are unavoidable. The death of a loved one, the apostasy of a person who was once a fellow believer, the murderous hatefulness displayed by most people as they go about their daily lives, the worship of the Beast (civil government in the Socialist Democracy of Amerika) and its henchmen (soldiers and police) and the preponderance of complete and total selfishness displayed by our fellow man are all just and reasonable occasions for grief. Elective grief, in contrast, only comes into existence because someone sticks his nose into someone else's business when he has no right or duty to do so.
Most family conflicts are the result of elective grief. Families are perfect microcosms for selfish and insecure people to attempt to control everyone but themselves. All of us are familiar with what I am writing about here today so I do not need to give lots of examples in support of my position. How many family members argue, gossip and back-bite each other almost continually? How many family reunions are dedicated to nothing but gossiping about each other while forming and joining familial cliques that support the various factions? All of that grief is unnecessary but it makes up, for many people, the greatest proportion of the grief they experience in their lives. This truth about families has caused me to create a life principle that I endeavor to follow. That principle is, "If I would not have anything to do with this person if he/she were not a family member, why am I having anything to do with him/her now?" Other than my biblical duty to my parents, now eliminated since both are dead, I have no moral duty to be involved in the lives of any of the members of my family. Fortunately, I have a very good family, both natural and my "in-laws" and I have not had to exercise this principle with any of them.
I have found that one of the keys to social and relational harmony is to mind my own business. It is astounding how many things never come up when I mind my own business. It is impossible to number how many inter-personal conflicts have never occurred because I minded my own business, but I bet it is in the thousands. If everyone committed himself to minding his own business I dare say we could eliminate elective grief over night. That, of course, is never going to happen, but it is a nice thing to consider. Just imagine a world without anyone trying to control the behavior of anyone else. Just imagine a world in which people keep their opinions to themselves. Just imagine a world in which everyone minds his own business. It would almost be heaven on earth.
A friend and reader of this blog sent me a link to a website, found here, on which people list their "pet peeves." Now a pet peeve need not necessarily be an example of someone trying to control the behavior of another, but many of them are. It is fascinating how often I become annoyed with others and how rarely I become annoyed with myself. The slightest and most inconsequential behavior that you do is enough to send me into a rage while I will tolerate the most heinous sinfulness in my own life. I wonder why that is? While I attempt to figure that one out, I think it has something to do with sin, I would like to consider some of the pet peeves found on that website, especially as they apply to elective grief. I don't know if the list of peeves is in any particular order. I don't know if they are ranked by how many people hold to one or the other. If they do I found it most interesting that the first one on the list is, "Drivers who do not use a turn signal."
I have had a theory about turn signal use for quite some time. I am one of those who is accused of not using my turn signal properly. Many people who have tried to follow me while caravaning to some destination or another get our of their vehicles quite annoyed with me when we arrive because I did not use a turn signal to their satisfaction. I do not make the choice to not use a turn signal to be offensive, to draw attention to myself or to irritate others (sorry about that double negative). My theory is that most people use their turn signals as a means to control others and that is why I will use mine only when it is necessary to convey information about my lawful intentions to another driver. The Yuppies who live in my neighborhood only use their turn signals to indicate that they want to force their way into the line of traffic after moving quickly forward in another lane with the intention of forcing themselves in closer to the front. These same Yuppies also use their turn signals as a weapon when they are seeking to merge into a lane of traffic. Rather than following the rules of the road that place the responsibility for changing speeds in order to merge upon the driver who is merging, these selfish jerks use their turn signal to inform folks like me that I am to adjust my speed for them. It seems pretty clear to me that most turn signal use, at least where I live, is offensive rather than informative in nature. In other words, people use their turn signals to inform others that they expect a particular behavioral change in me that suits them. That creates all sorts of elective grief as the drivers of the vehicles careen down the road raging each other.
The fifth peeve on the list mystifies me. It is "Couples who sit on the same side of the booth when there is no one on the other side." How in the world can it be bothersome to someone if my wife and I decide to sit on the same side of the booth, leaving the other side vacant? How much must a person be minding the business of others to be offended by that completely inoffensive behavior? Honestly, I can't fathom how sitting on the same side of the booth could be offensive to anyone. Can you?
Fourteenth on the list is "People walking around in ridiculous 'fashionable' shoes that are clearly hurting their feet." I can honestly say that I have never been offended or bothered in the slightest when I see some lady wearing a pair of shoes that are clearly doing damage to her feet and musculature. It is her business, what does it matter to me? I have chuckled to myself, under my breath, when I see those folks tottering along, barely able to stand up without falling over. What does it take to make that a pet peeve except a perverse desire to control the behavior of others? Live and let live, that is my motto. Mind your own business, that is the Welsh way.
Here is another one I don't understand. "Made up car names that are not even real words" is on the first page of the list. What difference does it make what moniker a car manufacturer wishes to place on his product? Who cares? Why lose any sleep over it? It is his car and he can call it whatever he wants to call it. It is none of my business. If I don't like the non-word he uses to describe his car I am free to buy something different but I hardly have any justification to be upset by his choice of terms.
Here is another one related to driving, as so many are, "Drivers who will not turn right on red." I think we are all familiar with this one. There is a car in front of me and he has the opportunity to make a right turn on red but is unwilling to do so. I also want to make a right turn on red and his delay could end up costing me a good fifteen to twenty seconds of my lifespan while I wait for the light to change. That, of course, is totally unacceptable to the person who has committed himself to the practice of controlling the behavior of others. So I honk my horn and make it very clear to him that I am quite dissatisfied with his behavior in this matter. It never occurs to me that he might have a very good reason in his own mind for waiting for the light to turn green. It never occurs to me that he might be driving home from his wife's funeral. It never occurs to me that he might have just been informed by his doctor that he has six months to live. It never occurs to me that he might just be daydreaming, as we all do at times, and unaware of the situation. All that matters to me is that he is not doing what I want him to do.
I used a double negative earlier in this post. Using double negatives is on the list. I wonder how many people I offended when I did so earlier? All I can say if you were offended is, get over it, relax, mind your own business.
Here is a peeve that is near and dear to my heart, "People who ride their bikes in the road when a sidewalk is right there." I must confess that I am one of those highly offensive people who rides his bike on the road. I am faced with an interesting choice. I can ride my bike on the sidewalk and offend the pedestrians or I can ride my bike on the road and offend the drivers. I chose the option that the law allows me and I ride on the road, despite being raged by drivers who are seeking to control my behavior.
I could go on forever here. Go to the website and see for yourself. The last one is an example of something I heard on the radio while on my last road trip to Arizona. I tuned in to the radio show of Laura Ingraham and she was talking about how irritated she gets when "people give their kids weird names." She droned on incessantly, one of my pet peeves, at how stupid it is for parents to give their children names that are not traditional. Traditional names, by the way, are Susan, Mary, Bob and George. Given the fact that most of the weird names she cited are for people who are black, I was shocked she had the courage to say what she did since she was opening herself up to charges of racism. I could not believe what I was hearing as she informed her listeners how offensive she finds it when people use non-traditional names for their kids. All I could think was, Laura, you need to mind your own business.