In 2015, I’m going to become a Rotarian. Not an actual Rotarian, mind you, because they have lots of meetings and committees, and I’m not sure which I loathe more. It’s like choosing between cat poop and dog poop. They each have their own special stink.
Besides, Rotary lunches cost money every week and there are all these silly fines, and my Inner Cheapacabra calculates that total cost, and decides that all that cash would be better spent on shoes.
I admire what Rotary Clubs do for their communities, but not enough to join — not that club, or any other club/group/committee/board, for that matter, because I’m a horrible team player. Unless I get to be the coach. General.
If I say “Jump!” I want everyone to shout “how high?” in unison on the way up. Those that whine and bicker… Off with their heads!
“Playing nice” isn’t my strong point. I accept this about myself. But I’m happy to help. Just give me a job and say, “Go.” I work faster and more efficiently on my own. Unless I have minions, of course.
So, the Rotarians and I will all be happier if I remain a lone she-wolf. However, there’s one piece of the Rotary mission I’ve decided to adopt: the Four-Way Test. With actions, choices and thoughts, the Four-Way Test asks four questions:
1. Is it the truth?
2. Is it fair to all concerned?
3. Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
There are so many ways to apply this. First off, my writing. Number 1 — Truth — has always been my singular priority. The Truth is my holy grail, whether it’s a news story or a column. That doesn’t mean I don’t swing and miss from time to time, but my intention is always to tell the truth.
That said, my particular angle on the truth has bumped me up against Number 2 more than once, particularly when it comes to politics. After many years of leaning left, I began to realize that leaning left is just as off-balance as leaning right. All things Democrat are not good, and all things Republican aren’t bad. They just aren’t. So, unless I’m talking specifically about Congressional Republicans or Democrats (also with their own special stink), I ask myself… is my statement true about Republicans or Democrats I actually know? Is it fair to all concerned? If not, I have to reword the statement or rethink my stance.
Yes, I’ve mellowed a lot.
Monarchial tendencies and impatience notwithstanding.
As a columnist, Numbers 3 and 4 are challenging. Sometimes making the reader uneasy, or even angry, is the whole point. But it must be for a purpose. Change. Improvement. A struggle for common ground. Pissing people off just because you can (and oh, Lordy, I can) doesn’t build goodwill and better friendships. It isn’t beneficial. That’s all Fox news and MSNBC do: Piss people off because they can. This only serves to stir hate and bile, push people farther apart, and widen the divide.
Our country doesn’t need a wider moat. It needs a bridge. We need to use our hands to grasp each others’ rather than throw stones and spears from our respective sides. That doesn’t mean never arguing. Sometimes you have to hash something out to clear the way to cooperation and understanding. But the ultimate goal of a fierce battle has to be Numbers 3 and 4. If “winning” is the only goal, not peace and harmony, then the confrontation fails the Four-Way Test at all levels.
Imagine applying the Four-Way Test to strained family relationships and friendships. What if you interact from that angle rather than from grudges and hurt feelings? I don’t mean feigning feelings or putting a happy mask over a scowl. I mean simply laying down arms. Sometimes choosing to turn and walk away from an impossible battle is the best choice, and for that moment, passes the Four-Way Test. When you can figure out how to interact with that person in a way that passes the test, give it a go then.
Which brings us to Facebook: “The place where friendships go to die.” (Copyright — Debra DeAngelo, 2015).
Facebook has become a never-ending stream of strife. Instead of reading a horrific story once on a news site, you’ll see it rolling down your Facebook feed over and over, each post with its own string of insults that no one would ever say to someone’s face. People throw insults like darts on Facebook, not caring who ends up bleeding, because their own self-righteous beliefs are continually validated. There’s always someone who “likes” your scornful, critical post because we pad our “friends” with those who agree with us. We create our own choirs, to which we preach and then feel empowered when our Very Important Posts are met with hearty applause.
But… that’s not reality, people. Facebook is a fantasy world we tailor to reinforce our own beliefs. Facebook validates, and encourages, behavior that fails the Four-Way Test. Miserably. I’ve learned this the hard way. If my potential post doesn’t pass the Four-Way Test, I’ll post a cat video instead.
Lastly, there’s your own internal life, your own inner Critical Committee that dispatches Nastygrams that usually begin with “You’re so (fill in the disdainful adjective)” or “You’ll never (fill in that cherished goal). I’ve come to recognize that my Critical Committee is a bunch of liars. My self-defeating thoughts aren’t the truth. They’re not fair or beneficial to all concerned: Me. I hamstring myself so often, I don’t even notice when I’m doing it.
When I detect that I’m cowering in my familiar, comfortable rut of self-defeating inner chatter, I’m going to apply the Four-Way Test. If my thoughts fail the test, I’ll replace them with thoughts that don’t. Because, dammit, I’m the Queen of my inner committee. When I say, “Jump,” they’d better be moving. Or off with their heads.
— Email Debra DeAngelo at email@example.com; read more of her work at www.wintersexpress.com and www.ipinionsyndicate.com