People don’t have to say nice things to you.

They are EVERYWHERE right now.

“They” being blogs and articles about what you should never say to other people. Like this. Or this. Even this, from a blogger that I follow and really enjoy. All you have to do is enter, “Things to never say…” into Google and you will find out that there were so many things you should never say to so many groups of people who never need those things said to them.

All I have to say to that is: sheesh. Actually, more, and here it is:

People don’t have to say nice things to you.

And guess what? They won’t!!!

I am not trying to tell people what to do (that would be a little hypocritical in an article ranting about people telling other people what to say and do), but the way I see it, there are three responses when you come across a statement you do not like in conversation:

1. Get over it. (Note: This is highly under rated in the day and age where a single comment on the internet means you must muster the forces and defeat the other side verbally until you are all shouting about Hitler, racism, genocide, and inequality.)

2. Express your frustration in that conversation. You can either do this with your body language, which some people will not pick up on because some people do not have that ability whether you like it or not. Or you can express it verbally. You can be direct, or if they become belligerent, you can be rude back to them. Either way, hash it out in the conversation.

3. Write a blog about how offended you are that these statements are being made, and pontificate from on high why you think no one should ever say them. Or don’t explain yourself, just tell people they shouldn’t say them because they are mean and mean people say those things.

I like the first two because they involve the personal element. I cannot control other people, so most of the time it is best to deal with it myself or with my close loved ones. And to actually approach the issue in personal conversation is more convicting to the person who made the statement, as well as opens the door for apology or to clear up a misunderstanding. Granted, it probably is not as personally satisfying as sitting down and writing out a treatise on these awful people who do not have a nuanced understanding conversation of conversation like yours truly, but that’s life. It’s messy and rarely adapts to provide me with closure.

Two examples of this. One happened recently when I was preaching a sermon recently. My wife approached me and said, “So-and-so told me to tell you to speak slowly.” Now, I could write a blog called, “Never say these 479 things to your minister, or how not to wound your minister’s fragile ego before he speaks.” I was actually feeling unprepared that day, and when I am feeling unprepared, I tend to speak at a million miles an hour. So I had been telling myself all morning that I need to speak slow and to force myself to pause and be conscious of my speech. I approached so-and-so after the sermon, and said thank you for reminding me to slow down, a little sheepish that they knew about this flaw of mine (I don’t like people knowing my flaws. I like them to think of me as the perfect, glittery, multifaceted gem of a human being that I tell myself I am). So-and-so looked at me funny and said, “Oh, I was just telling you to drag it out because we needed time to get the potluck ready.” Whew! I laughed out loud! Crisis averted, I am still a flawless gem!

Second example. I was over at my sister’s house a few years back. For those of you who know me, I am a rather large individual with the proverbial bowl-full-o’jelly around my middle. I know, I should feel guilty about it, but I don’t cause I don’t. Anyways, her neighbors stopped by with their little kids, one who was about 3 years old. He was a hilarious kid, full of energy and spunk. Because he was awesome, I started playing a game with him that involved him running across the room right into my stomach. He did this a couple of times and stopped right in front of me. Sticking both hands into my pudgy belly, he articulated with amazement, “Wow! Why did you eat so much for supper?!?” Awesome! I almost lost it, but in one of my more witty moments, I quipped, “Son, I had to eat a lot for a whole bunch of suppers to get my belly like this!” I laughed a lot of belly laughs too. His parents looked mortified, and they stepped in before my comment could sink in, allowing this young child to grow up thinking it was okay to punch peoples’ bellies and make comments about them. They said the usual lines about how it is not polite to point those things out and other things I can’t remember, all of which I assure you I will remember and teach my kids someday. I am sure he no longer fat shames anybody. You know what they should have done? Gone home and write a blog titled, “Ten things kids ought not to say to prodigiously porky people.” That would learn him real good.

All that to say, people don’t have to say nice things to you and they won’t. There is a whole spectrum of human experience, emotional, physical, and social maturity, your emotions and thoughts that day, cultural differences, and just plain ignorance and stupidity that will prevent you from having nice conversations all the time. Get over it, tell the person not to do it, or write about it. Just maybe less on the internet. Oops! I told you what to do!

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