People are rude.
Not all people. And definitely not you. (My research has shown that the people who regularly read this column are not only kind but are also much smarter than the average bear. Congratulations.)
But some people – and you’ve no doubt met many of them – are just plain rude. It isn’t a new realization and yet, when I come across blatant rudeness, I’m still astonished every single time.
We could “why” this situation all day long and sometimes I do. Did their mamas not raise them right? Were their mamas rude? Do they have some kind of personality disorder that predisposes them to rudeness? Are their shoes too tight? There are a million possibilities.
No matter what the explanation, there’s never an excuse for being rude. There just isn’t.
But since being on the receiving end of rudeness seems inevitable, the big question is “What should we do about it?”
That’s what I struggle with most. Let me give you an example. My mother, who is the polar opposite of rude, once worked with a person who cruised right past rude and didn’t stop until she hit the exit for “hateful.” This lady made the Grinch look like the Pillsbury Dough Boy. She was mean-spirited in nearly all her interactions – a school-yard bully in a grown-up workplace. Mom was her favorite target.
(Obviously, I’m biased in this situation. She is my mama, after all. But hundreds of friends, co-workers, church members and acquaintances spread out over more than 60 years cannot all be wrong. All of them would tell you that Mom is like Mrs. Butterworth. She just wants to feed you pancakes and love you – in that order.)
So back to the big question of what to do when someone is rude. The angel on my shoulder agrees with Mom when she says we should pray for rude people. In my heart, I know that’s right. But sometimes, especially when I’m lying in bed at night trying to pray, the devil on my other shoulder starts helping me craft the exact thing I would say to this person if I got the chance. Do you ever do that?
These middle-of-the-night internal monologues are beautifully constructed and delivered with real zing – the perfect mixture of “how dare you” blended with in-your-face truth. But then I wake up the next morning knowing I’ll likely never deliver those stinging words, and I wonder if I’ll ever learn how to stop wanting to spew them at people like the one who was mean to Mom.
The good news here is that prayers were answered. Although Mrs. Rude never changed her hateful ways, she did move away. Mom managed to wish her well as she left. (I wanted to stand by the highway as she drove out of town with a big sign that said “And don’t come back!” But Mom said that would be rude, so I didn’t.)
One thing I’m slowly accepting is that those clever comebacks I’m tempted to say when people are rude won’t solve the problem (although I imagine it would feel awesome to say it.) It wouldn’t make a light bulb go off over that person’s head. It wouldn’t make their heart grow three sizes. And they might never feel bad about what they’ve done, the same way a scorpion doesn’t regret its sting. Perhaps it’s just who they are.
Maybe that’s exactly the reason we should pity and pray for those for whom rudeness comes so easily – because they’re the dark part of everyone’s day and they either don’t know or don’t care or both. What a terrible life sentence to live.
Gwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of nwaMotherlode.com. To read previously published installments of The Rockwood Files, click here. To check out Gwen’s book, “Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile: The Rockwood Files Collection,” click HERE.