A recent article about pregnant women caught my attention, probably because our first grandchild is due in September. The headline was this: “What Not to Say to a Pregnant Woman” by Marlena Graves. Here’s a sample of inappropriate things people say to pregnant women:
So, who’s the father?
Boy, you’re getting fat.
You look like you’re about to pop.
I love seeing the new mother glow and nice round breasts
Was this a planned pregnancy?
Such comments are often delivered as an attempt at humor. However, regardless of the context, some of these comments are crass and insensitive. I get it. Still, a sense of humor is essential when we are on the receiving end of offensive remarks. It’s hard enough to get through this life without turning into a grumpy old wretch. A sense of humor does not excuse bad behavior or inappropriate comments, but it does help as a coping mechanism. Of course, there are times when amusement at poor manners is not appropriate and a more direct approach with the offender is necessary. Just be aware that not all offenders can be politely embarrassed into changing their behavior. They are simply oblivious to their faux pas and unlikely to understand why their comments were not . . . appreciated. Even if we confront them, I doubt we can correct a lifetime of missed lessons about etiquette. Hence, for our own mental health, we need that sense of humor.
I was born and raised in California, though I have family in rural Georgia. When visiting my family in Georgia, I become keenly aware of the difference in manners and customs between folk from my neck of the woods and people raised in the South. Those of us from California are often very laid-back, whereas people from the South have more expectations about proper behavior. Thankfully, people from the South are also very forgiving once they learn I’m from California.
I once heard a comedian assert that our culture has become so comfortable that we now make up reasons to be upset and offended. He used this example: While experiencing the miracle of flight, an airline passenger gets enraged when the flight attendant announced that the aircraft Wi-Fi was not operating. Really? It should be a minor annoyance, not something that raises our blood pressure. Good manners and civility are necessary for a culture to survive and thrive, but I wonder if we have a tendency to overreact these days.
It is possible one reason so many people accuse Christians of being judgmental is this hyper-sensitivity to anything that falls outside our standards of polite behavior and speech. Quite frankly, not everyone was raised by parents who insisted on good manners. When we have dealings with the ill-mannered, it’s an opportunity to express grace instead of going to our default mode of incredulity and offended feelings. If we really want to make an impact, perhaps we should focus our insistence on good manners towards children and young adults.
As a sensitive man (I know, it’s an oxymoron), I realize there are serious aspects to life and faith, but I wonder if we make them more problematic than necessary.