Nothing on earth does greater harm to the human community than the absence of “word control”. Word control applies to the written word as well as the spoken word and thoughts. Those who use social media to express their feelings and opinions can do just a much harm as those who speak recklessly. We can’t examine every possible situation in life, but we can look at some of the more common misbehaviors and learn what the proper behavior should be.
So, you’re in a bad mood.
One can be in a bad mood for many reasons: fatigue, sleep deprivation, illness, worries, or the aftermath of a conflict. Being in a bad mood for any of these situations or others is not out of the ordinary for any animal. Even dogs and cats have good days and bad days. Is it OK to snap at people, ignore others, command those whom we should not command or simply whine? Would you allow your dog to snap at you, because he’s in a bad mood or your cat to dig his claws into you?
Alternative appropriate behavior: The first appropriate behavior is silence. One must bite one’s tongue rather than use it as a sharp cutting edge.
The second appropriate behavior is to be reasonable. Not everyone around us is our enemy. Why push others away with our caustic remarks and behaviors? Remember, everything gets old, even if it comes from people we love. How long can a parent or a spouse tolerate such behavior?
Body language that sends very clear signals, “Beware of dog,” doesn’t delete our bad mood and certainly does nothing for others. This can be an open window that allows divisive evil to enter the scene. Smiling at someone who has done no harm can be an act of heroic charity.
Spouses are neither our property nor our children.
There seems to be a mistaken notion, in some homes, that a spouse can be spoken to as if he or she were an indentured servant or a child. A spouse who believes that he can rattle the other is setting a very poor example of social skills, justice, and charity. No spouse has the right to command the other to do or not to do something. Much less does any spouse have the right to lay a hand on the other. It’s immoral. It makes a bad situation worse. Someone can get hurt. In a home with children, it teaches children that the only way to win is to shout and strike.
Appropriate behavior when you disagree with your spouse: The best thing to do is to say nothing, initially. “Let me think about this,” is a perfectly respectful response. Then you put some distance between you and the other person. Avoid, if you can, leaving the house. Nothing is as offensive to a human being than to see a door closing between the person he loves and the self. At this point, disagreement can feel like dismissiveness. Taking the dog for a walk is OK; but let the other spouse know that you’re going to walk the dog. You’re not running away from the disagreement. Besides, disagreements don’t go away, because we leave.
Once you’re alone, you must be honest with yourself. You must ask yourself what is that you find disagreeable and why? Finding something disagreeable, because it’s not the way that I think things should be is not much of an argument. On the other hand, if the way I think things should be is better for the good of the marriage and the household, then I need to communicate that. It’s more effective than saying, “I don’t agree,” “Nope!”
There is a big difference between commanding and bullying a spouse and requesting, suggesting, or simply disagreeing.
Gossiping with yourself
We do this more often than we care to count. Spreading gossip, where one is telling the truth, exaggerating it or simply lying, is sinful. It violates several moral laws, the first one being justice. Everyone has a right to a good reputation. Not everyone has the need to know about another person’s life. If someone’s good reputation is damaged, let his actions speak for themselves. They don’t need your help.
Back to gossiping with oneself. We engage in what I call loop talking. Loop talking is when we repeat to ourselves every fault that we find in another person. We repeat it so often that it becomes a loop. We do it without pushing the play button. The evil part here is that in time our souls becomes darker and darker with resentment. When we cross a certain point, it’s very difficult to undo the program that we have installed in our minds. We need help.
Alternative and appropriate behavior, rather than gossiping to yourself: If there is someone whom you trust not to spread gossip, such as a confessor, spouse, superior or spiritual director, they may be a good place to “dump” your feelings.
If you find that you’re repeating the same negative thoughts about another person more than 24-hours, it’s time to have a talk with the other person, not a confrontation. Sometimes, it’s difficult to talk to someone who does not listen or fails to understand. An attempt to speak to such a person can lead to frustration, anger, hatred and even vindictiveness. Best not to have that heart-to-heart talk, without a mediator, never alone.
Unless the other person is Satan himself, every human being has something positive that he or she brings to the table. Very often, these persons have done something good for us. Taking an inventory of the good that this person has contributed to the group or to my life can be a way of changing the recording. I’m engaging in a more positive dialogue with myself.
I must always remember, none of us can change another person. But all of us can do something to change what we think, what we say about others and how we deliver the message.
Everyone disagrees with authority figures at some point in one’s life.
This is not unusual. When an authority figure asks for something against God’s law, one has no obligation to agree or obey that specific request or command. People in positions of authority make mistakes. One can even say that they often make foolish mistakes.
Appropriate response to authority: We must make sure that the person has the right to command that which he or she commands. Never forget that those who exercise authority legitimately, have the right to command what is within the scope of their role. This includes things that make no sense to us. There is no rule that says that people in authority must always make sense. We hope they do make sense. But don’t expect that to be the case all the time.
Ask yourself, “Is this request a violation of God’s moral laws?” You should also ask yourself, “Does this request undermine a command from a higher authority, a person higher in the hierarchy of authority?”
When this is the case, you have a moral duty to explain why you cannot comply. But you do not have the right to use an aggressive tone of voice, vulgar words, raise your voice, or walk out before the person in authority has the final word.
Remember, your issue is with a very specific command that violates moral duty. Your issue is not with the person giving the command and much less with the office that he or she occupies. You must remain close to that person and that office. Otherwise, you break communion with the person in authority. What do you do now that you have severed your ties with the person at the top?
There are some people who have difficulty suggesting, requesting, asking for, and least of all persuading others. They simply speak to others as if they were the authority and the other person the subordinate.
Appropriate behavior for bossy people: The first suggestion is that if you can’t say it without commanding, being quiet may be a good idea.
Take careful note to whom it is that you’re speaking. If the other person is the authority and you’re the subordinate, but you’re doing the commanding, you’re probably being rude and in violation of justice.
If you’re the person in authority, remember this. The most effective person in a position of authority is not authoritarian. Good leaders are frank, respectful, assertive, kind, and flexible. They know how to listen and to how much they should listen.
The subordinate person would be wise to let the person in authority have the last word. If you try to have the last word, you’re letting your pride do the driving. Humility goes a lot further than arrogance.
Language must be used responsibly. Language was given to man to express the wonders of life and to communicate Divine Truths. The world was created when “God said”. (Genesis). “In the beginning was the Word”. (John)