Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Miss Forgiveness

I have been reading a bit of Miss Manners lately, and what I have been realizing is that she gives people permission to be offended sometimes. I often like her advice, but I choose to live my life in such a way that when I get a chance to be offended, I choose to fight that chance off. I read Miss Manners partly to give me tools in my arsenal for not giving offense (I realize what a horribly mangled metaphor that is, but I’m not going back to fix it, lest I get hurt), but if I take everything she says as Gospel Truth, I am going to be offended more often than I want to.

Which got me thinking. What if everyone (or at least enough people) recognized that when you are offended, you need to forgive? And since I was in advice-columnist mode, (and as you have undoubtedly already guessed from the title of this posting), I thought: we should have a column called “Dear Miss Forgiveness”.

Then I started thinking of all kinds of other advice columns you could have: Dear Miss Frugal, for example. But then I was thinking about how hard it can sometimes be to be frugal without cutting yourself off from the joy of living (for some of us, anyway), so then I thought maybe it should be: Dear Miss Frugal But Not Miserly. But then I realized that this is already (kind of) covered by the Tightwad Gazette and like publications, and who wants a name that long anyway? Also, what about “Dear Miss Neat and Comely But Not Obsessed With Her Looks”? but that breaks the long-name rule by a mile, so never mind. I would also personally love to see something along the lines of “Dear Miss Loving And Kind But Not A Doormat,” but perhaps that was what I was looking for in “Miss Forgiveness” in the first place.

Perhaps this Miss mania has been sparked not just by Miss Manners, but by my thinking about moral philosophical writing in general, lately. What I have been thinking, specifically, is that I personally need less rules and more examples. I mean, we all know the Golden Rule, but we all know about misapplications of every rule, such as the time when my then-two-year-old nephew tried to put shoes on the feet of a visiting baby because HE loved wearing shoes so much. Letters about particular situations provide an over-time-and-many-different-circumstances type of instruction. I feel pleased, as I think about this, to notice that Jesus himself used stories quite frequently to teach, and answed questions on a very frequent basis.

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