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Warmest regards: You shouldn’t say shouldn’t

Published December 08. 2018 07:29AM

Is it just me, or are we turning into the kind of people who think they need to control everyone else?

Too many believe they need to control what others think, believe, say or do.

If you don’t know what I mean, let me give you some examples.

My friend Sue was frightened when she found the biggest spider she had ever seen on a wall in her bedroom.

She knew some spiders are so-called “good spiders” while others are not. As one who frequently uses our nifty community Facebook site, she took a fast photo of the spider and asked others if it was dangerous. She thought perhaps it was a wolf spider that can bite with enough venom to cause serious reactions.

At first, no one answered her question. When one guy did answer, he warned her not to kill it.

“Too late,” Sue said. “I didn’t want that thing in my bedroom.”

That’s when the barrage of criticism started on social media.

“You shouldn’t have done that,” wrote one guy. “We have no right to kill any living thing.”

Others posted similar thoughts, criticizing Sue for killing a spider in her own home.

“Why do people think they have the right to question and control everything that others do?” Sue asks.

I’ve been wondering the same thing, especially when I see vicious personal attacks on the Internet.

On that same social media site, (one that I happen to enjoy because of the information about what’s going on in our community) another controversy erupted.

One guy posted a story about walking his dog next to a pond. “As another dog was running by us, a big alligator jumped out of the lake, grabbed the dog and swam away with the dog in its mouth. I had no idea an alligator could jump like that,” he wrote.

After he called the wildlife commission, they came and captured the alligator.

He posted the story to warn others. I, for one, was glad he did because it happened in the pond next to my house. I often walk around that pond during my early morning walks.

But then the name-calling started. The guy who called the game commission was personally attacked for his actions. Several called him a killer because calling the game commission led to the death of the gator.

“We need to let our wildlife alone,” wrote one guy. You shouldn’t have interfered with nature.”

It got so bad the site administrator had to shut down the discussion.

I’m baffled. Why do we feel free to criticize the actions of others?

These are not isolated incidents.

Some say it’s because the anonymity of social media encourages others to be more outspoken.

While I think that is true, it’s just part of the picture.

Some blame the surge of disrespect on the political climate.

Yet we have had differing political opinions since the start of our republic. In the past we could share our political opinions without personal attacks.

A friend of mine who is a history buff says there have always been raging public political debates. It’s nothing new. What is new are the ugly personal attacks, name-calling and sometimes violence against others that dare have different beliefs, he says.

Anyone who reads a newspaper, watches TV or reads Internet stories knows that the level of “nasty noise” is rising. People seem more willing to be vociferous about their intolerance.

We tell others what they should and shouldn’t do as well as what they should and shouldn’t believe.

My parish priest often admonishes his congregation about our use of the words “should” and “shouldn’t” when referring to others.

“We would be so much happier if we stopped believing others need to live up to our expectations,” he says.

“We can only control our own thoughts and actions,” he says. “Why do we waste so much time and energy trying to change others?”

He says no matter how hard we try to convince a zebra it should have spots instead of stripes, it’s always going to have stripes, no matter how much we tell it to do otherwise.

In his many years of consulting others, he says he hears all too many times how someone is upset because someone else won’t conform to their beliefs.

A mother complains her daughter-in-law is doing things she shouldn’t.

Others complain their adult children aren’t doing what they should do.

Everyone has his or her own “shouldn’t” complaints.

There was a time when a small committee of women approached the priest to complain about the way the president was running a volunteer church group. They expected the priest to intervene and tell the president she had to change her actions.

Instead, he warned the women about judging what someone should or shouldn’t do.

He keeps making the point that we each of us can control only two things: Our own actions and our reaction to others.

Why then do we waste so much time and energy trying to control others?

My friend Jeanne and I act as verbal police to each other if we fall into the trap of judging others for actions we think they should or shouldn’t do.

Sure, we can have our own differing opinions. That doesn’t make it OK to rudely lambaste someone not adhering to our own version of right.

Contact Pattie Mihalik at

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