Thursday, April 10, 2008

A Lesson from Dr Seuss

There is a theory out there that goes something like this - take an individual with a biological predisposition to mental illness and plunk him down in an environment that is inconsistent and incongruent and unpredictable, and then sit back and watch disorder take shape.

I reckon you know what I mean. It's the "I love you, now go away" interaction we experience from time to time. Mixed messages and ever-changing rules make us, well, crazy. As a matter of fact, this kind of stuff is fondly referred to as "crazy making."

Please indulge me a few examples (caution - some of these may elicit an unpleasant reaction):

"Come here and give your momma a hug. Good heavens - when was the last time you took a bath?"

"It's high time you start taking some responsibility and taking care of yourself. Oh, by the way, don't wear that shirt. It's ugly."

"Use your brain, son. Use your brain! And quit arguing with me."

"You are so beautiful. Have you ever considered wearing colored contact lenses?"

"Why can't you act like a man? Don't you dare talk to me like that!"

"Stop crying! That didn't hurt! I didn't hit you that hard. Come here... let me kiss it and make it better..."

"You be a good girl and do what Daddy tells you now. But don't you go and let some boy do this to you. Good girls don't do that."

In these situations, we can't figure out the rules, and we can't predict how the other person will behave. We feel confused and helpless and out-of-control.

I recently saw Horton Hears a Who at the theater. The only thing I remembered from the Dr Seuss book was the line "I meant what I said, and I said what I meant. An elephant's faithful 100%." It made me smile to hear it in the film.

I got to wondering how faithful we are when we communicate with one another. Do we say what we mean? Do we mean what we say? Do we show integrity in our relationships? Does it really matter? lists these words in its definition of faithful - constant, loyal, accurate, reliable, exact. The same source likens integrity to completeness, soundness, honesty, and sincerity. There are certainly similarities between the two.

Most people will tell you that they would like to be treated with respect. I think it is easier to respect someone who is faithful, someone who exhibits integrity. Including ourselves.

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