Did You See That Fault Over There?11:39 PM
Fellow grammar geeks, you will relate. You take a stand on grammar - you devote your life to the cause - and to the best of your ability, you patrol your own writing to make sure no misplaced modifiers are lurking on the border. But we are, as we sometimes forget, human, and tired eyes fail to catch comma splices on the glowing screen. We let our guard down one time - perhaps saying off of because we weren't thinking or forgetting to correct the i-t-apostrophe-s error in our email.
And people pounce all over you. One slip and the floodgates are open - ridicule zeros in on all sides; you struggle against the tide of nonstop teasing (by people who had to endure your grammatical correction - but we'll ignore that for a moment); you helplessly flail your proverbial arms and stammer unintelligent comebacks that dig your hole deeper. A few days and numerous verbal jabs later, it dies down to one of those memories people pull out when the conversation needs reviving. Especially if you fit nicely on the butt-end of jokes.
It's hard being smart. It makes your stupidity stand out like black on white. With some acquaintances, I dread making mistakes - it's an open invitation to subject myself to five-minute-long, cult-like torture councils. It's like the time when all the relatives gather and tell old stories from our happy family history - somehow there's always a zesty retelling of my three-year-old temper trantrums.
But some friends - they're a safe haven. I can mess up in front of them - and they'll laugh if it's truly funny, but they'll let me correct myself before opening fire. These friends have a policy that shocks my oft-teased soul: they let things go. These friends? They don't call the newspaper when I say off of or Me and Bethany did [insert typical sisterly doing]. They don't rush to ooh and ahh over a mistake. In short, they overlook faults.
A novel idea, isn't it?
One of my all-time favorite heroes, Stonewall Jackson - but I must first give a caveat that this is a movie portrayal and may or may not be based on cold fact - as I was saying, Stonewall Jackson. He liked lemonade. He liked his lemonade sour - no sugar for him, thank you very much. But he loved his wife, even though she made his lemonade sweet. It wasn't until his esposita heard him lovingly mentioning her and her too-sweet lemonade while he lay on his death bed that she found out about his lemonade tastes.
That, to me, is the epitome of love - the kind that picks socks off the floor without a fight. Sure, teasing's fun - to a point. With mutual consent. But to find out you goofed up the grammar in an email and the recipient never even hinted a word at it - that reluctance to criticize perks up my day in a jiffy.
To let small things go - to not tease and poke fun - that's huge. Generally people show greater restraint toward bigger sins, but this pattern of little joking criticisms here and there becomes entrenched in our relational DNA. One little joke can build up into a whole wall if we don't watch how we give out our wit and wisdom.
We can constantly be hunting faults - "Whoa, Ma! Did you see that fault over there?" - or we can constantly be giving praise and encouragement. The worst thing about picking on people's imperfections is that sometimes words hurt. I remember working on a birthday card, typing up my own little poem and getting the graphics all in line - and I, the grammar geek, misspelled a word. I and my misspelling became, upon the opening of that card, the running joke of the party. So it was a little funny - I tried to laugh at myself - but I didn't touch cardmaking again for a long time.
How happy are you to discover that the person you baked a special cake for doesn't particularly care for chocolate frosting? Was it truly necessary to mention the fact that you already had a shirt just like the one your friend gave you - right after opening the neatly wrapped box? Is it particularly encouraging to write up a sweet note, only to have the recipient point out the grammatical error on the front? Think about that.
And then think how easy it is to simply keep your mouth shut, give a big thank you and a hug, and never, ever let the person know their gift of love was anything less than perfect. Because that's all the best of us are - less than perfect. And a little love goes a long way.