Not a tease, a teaser. I have fun teasing people - joking with them, making light, being snarky, caustic, and sarcastic. Yes, it should probably be considered a flaw. (link here) I also enjoy banter - the back-and-forth with quick-witted people. (Think Philadelphia Story, but with no alcohol.)
Most of my good friends have the ability to take a joke and fire right back, which is one of the reasons they are my friends. These friends follow my easily-disproven theory that the smarter a person is, the funnier they should be. I enjoy hanging around with quick-witted, smart people in the hopes that it might prove contagious in some form.
This is most likely an extension of my childhood, where you had to be on your toes at the dinner table to even keep up. Debate and humor was just part of growing up. As was my sister calling me "obnoxious."
The election brought with it an entirely new level of banter and acerbic conversation - especially online. Twitter and Facebook became verbal petri-dishes of rancour and attack. It was staggering to see how mean it could get. But on the funnier side, it was amazing how much wit was on display. And that is where it gets difficult. A perfectly fun conversation can suddenly turn ugly, or a serious discussion can fall victim to mockery. What was a great conversation in one minute could quickly descend into a pit of aggressive dogma and hurt feelings.
Many people think that they have a thick skin, and climb into the ring to "have a go." One of the best of them is Mike Henneke - when he gets on Facebook, he can dish it out, and it seems that he can take it as well, but I can't help but think that there have been many, many nights where MIke has turned off his computer and cried himself to sleep.
Some people are just not wired for a good verbal slap-fight. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.) They think they are, but you find them taking offense where none was intended, or replying by crossing the magic line between fun and flat-out mean. Here's a hint: If you have unfriended more than a few people because they hurt your feelings - that would be you.
I also know that sometimes when the words get flying, on screen or in real life, things get out of hand. Which brings me to one of my favorite quotes - a quote I have remembered since I was a teenager. (Probably because I use it often when apologizing to people.)
"The boys throw rocks at the frogs in jest. But the frogs die in earnest."
"Some boys, playing near a pond, saw a number of frogs in the water, and began to pelt them with stones. They killed several of them, when one of the frogs, lifting his head out of the water, cried out: "Pray stop,my boys; what is sport to you, is death to us."
Yes. Frogicide is alive and well, and flourishing on the internet. The web has become a veritable graveyard of dead frogs, killed in the sport of humor. If it makes you feel any better, it is much easier to take the Confucious way out:
"He who takes offense where none is attended is a fool, he who takes offense where offense is intended is a bigger fool."
There is some merit to what Confucious said - that if you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen. There are some people who have no business engaging in anything that resembles a debate, or a verbal slap-fest - because they can't deal with it. Those people are probably more sensitive than blowhards like me, but they should also understand their limitations and stay out of the arena. My sweet EC is a kind, sweet, gentle person who has no disposition for debate - but now and then she will nail me with some devastating, out-of-character slam which cracks me up. She knows that engaging in that type of discussion would not give her any satisfaction, and could possibly make her sad - so she doesn't get involved.
Yet, the idea that it is the sole responsibility of the person who can't take a hit to stay out of the ring doesn't sit right. Just because a frog finds itself in the line of sight does not give the boys the right to start hurling rocks at it. We do have a responsibility to be kind. And that includes being kind to people we don't really know.
I have a lot of FB friends, and witty, attractive readers. Sometimes we get into rather heated, or silly discussions, and I'll admit - I proceed with the assumption that they can take a joke, or a hit. This has proven to be dangerous. I know I have killed my share of frogs in the name of debate and fun. It is easy to go too far. Many times I have frantically searched for the non-existent "un-send" button on my keyboard. And I have often wanted to grab recently spewed words out of the air and cram them back into my mouth. Rest assured, I have done my share of apologizing, too.
One advantage of the election cycle drawing to a close is that talking about politics is custom-built for giving and taking offense - as is religion. This election had both! Things we feel strongly about cause us to react differently. I have received comments from people who I have offended by making light of church culture where no offense was intended. Some very surprising because the thing that had offended them had not even registered on my radar.
We all have different levels of teasing tolerance. It would take a lot to offend me, and I cannot imagine a scenario where someone could say something to me that was so hurtful that it would keep me away from church. And that would include one of the Apostles openly mocking me, by name, in General Conference. I would still show up the next Sunday, just to watch people's reactions. So I truly don't empathize with anyone who has ever left the church, because of what someone said to them. It would be the ultimate act of "cutting off one's nose to spite one's face." Hopefully, my pride and emotion will never outweigh my testimony.
Frogicide. Right. You will note I keep drifting back to the frogs, and not the stone-throwers, which makes it readily apparent which camp I frequent most.
In my banter with you on Facebook, and in my blog comments, I never intend to hurt feelings. If I have, I apologize. I know I have lost a couple of dear friends because of political debate. It is sad.
So, next time you have a great comeback blinking on your screen, just waiting for you to hit send, pause for a second and ask yourself if you should.
"Let us oft speak kind words to each other, at home or where'ere we may be."
Sure, it's not as fun, but it would leave fewer emotional frog corpses in our wakes - and that is a good thing.