Before I get started, I must apologize for the title. I really struggled with this one, y’all. Sometimes the clever muse is not with me. 😥
I have had a *most* difficult time lately not being petty. The word petty is derived from the French word, “petit,”* which simply means “small.” And that’s really what pettiness is – letting yourself get upset over small, unimportant things. Things like..
…when that girl suggested that my romantical woes might be linked to my minimal make-up, or in other words “maybe you ugly?” **
…or when that fb friend kept on passive-aggressively liking the comments of someone I was arguing with on the interwebs…
… or when that family member shares a million memes per day but never shares my blog posts…
You get the point. As embarrassing as it is to admit, all of these are examples of things that have legitimately bothered me IRL in the past year. Frankly, I’m beginning to think my tendency to be preoccupied with these small offenses isn’t just lamé, it’s evil.
I said it! EVIL.
If that seems a little extreme, hear me out. In his book The Good Samaritan Strikes Again, Patrick McManus proposes a theory that, although it’s almost been 20 years since I read the book, permanently lodged itself into my brainz because it was so brilliant.
I have this theory that people possess a certain capacity for worry, no more, no less. It’s as though a person has a little psychic box that he feels compelled to keep filled with worries. When one worry disappears from the box, he immediately replaces it with another worry, so the box is always full. He is never short of worries. If a new crop of worries comes in, the person sorts through the box for lesser worries and kicks them out, until he has enough room for the new worries. The lesser worries just lie around on the floor, until there’s room in the box for them again, and then they’re put back in. They’re welcomed by the worries that have been in the box all the time: “Hi, guys! Good to have you back. Boy, you should have seen the duds that just left. And they had the nerve to call themselves worries!” – Patrick McManus
We can only concern ourselves with so much. There’s an opportunity cost to pettiness – every time I choose to latch onto small things that nick my pride and hurt my feels, I sacrifice an opportunity to latch onto big things. Big things.. like the feels of others.
Seriously – that is the golden rule, is it not?
So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. – Jesus, in Matthew 7:12
So there is a silver lining in all of this— I already have a breathtaking ability to latch onto small details, and an exquisite sensitivity to what might be offensive or rude! Imagine – just imagine! – if I channeled this for other people! What if I started noticing when other people were uncomfortable and did small things to help them relax? What if I realized when I was being a rude arse and apologized before it became a big deal?
But my worry box is only so big. So if I’m all wrapped up in myself – completely tuned into how I feel, and whether or not I’m offended, and all other things me me me, I have zero capacity to focus on anyone besides myself.
So yas. It’s not a small thing to be petty. I have to choose, I s’pose. It’s me or all of you.
— EDITORIAL NOTES —
*I just made this up, but it’s probably true. Ask the google machine, if you DARE!
**I wish I made that up, but it’s true. Don’t.. be… petty…