Editorial: An Apology

Trent Ernst, Editor


A working definition of hypocrisy is saying one thing, but doing another.

And that, my friends, is exactly what I’ve been doing.

I keep saying that what we say about others says more about ourselves than about the person we’re talking about.

The basic idea is that most of what we say is not conveyed in the actual words themselves. So, for instance, during a tickle fight with my then-to-be wife, she may have called me some names that weren’t, on the face of it, very nice. But the fact that she said those nasty words while laughing and trying her darnedest to tickle me back conveyed to me that she wasn’t really upset with me, nor was she employed as a trucker.

More than that, though, if we say nasty things about people, we reveal ourselves to be the type to say nasty things about people.

And while hanging out with these sorts of people can be fun, I can’t help but think to myself, if this is what they say about X when X is not around, what do they say about me when I’m not around?

I know that I am not the most laud-worthy individual, and I would rather my failings be discussed by people with softer wits and kinder words.

I’m not saying that I want people to lie about me, or not discuss me, but I would prefer a) to know what was being said and b) if what was being said was more helpful and less harmful. You can say, for instance, that I smell funny in a variety of ways. You could say “did you want a stick of gum to chew on, please? And while we’re at it, here’s a bottle of Axe”, or you could say “Is there a dead cat rotting away under your desk in a pile of vomit, or did you just forget to have a shower again?”

Sure that’s funny, but it’s not very nice. On the plus side, at least it’s too my face. But it’s even more harmful when comments like that are made behind somebody’s back. When we talk about others with disdain and hate. And when you talk like that, at least to me, I learn as much about you and how you treat people as I do about the person you’re talking about.

It’s a lesson I’m trying to teach to my kids, and it’s something I’m trying to get across in the things I write for the paper.

And it’s a lesson I keep trying, and failing, to learn myself.

A few days ago, I was talking to a couple friends, and the subject turned to the imminent election. And my friends started badmouthing some of the candidates. I wanted to fit in. These were my friends.

So, adopting the tone of the conversation, I began to say humorous but unkind things about another of the candidates.

And as soon as I did it, I knew that what I had said was wrong.

No it wasn’t what I had said that was wrong, it was how I had said it. Snarky. With the intent to call the person down.

Again, I am a firm believer in the right to hold different opinions. To have different outlooks on life. To disagree and discuss and debate. But to do so with respect for the other person.

And I try, with what I write and what I say to have a measured response and to try and see all sides of a story.

Once again, though, I failed. I mocked and cast aspersions, and I’m sorry, both to the person I was talking about (who has no idea what I said, or even whom I said it about), and to those who heard me. I failed to live up to my own standards.

But I’m not so sure that when we try and fail it is hypocrisy, but learning. Each step we take in the right direction is, well, a step in the right direction, and if we fall down sometimes, hopefully we learn where better to place our foot, and that is, one hopes, not firmly in one’s own mouth.