Do your best to avoid being a pissant

My wife laughed at me the other day, when it was reported someone somewhere took offense at some meaningless comment, gesture or act. She laughed because I said “People need to stop being such pissants.” She said she had never heard me use that term. The act in question was so unimportant I cannot remember it, but it did not stop someone from being petty, having the issue so blown out of proportion that we had to hear about it on regular news.

The first Webster definition would focus on the natural definition regarding an ant who flourishes in the urine of animals and has a unique smell as a result. Thanks to Kurt Vonnegut in “Cat’s Cradle,” the meaning more widely used is regarding something insignificant, small or petty. Lyndon B. Johnson referred to the Vietnam War that way, until it ate up many waking moments in his presidency and was one of the reasons he did not rerun for a second elected term.

The other day I wrote a post on saying kind words to retail clerks, cashiers, baristas and others who serve you. I am also a huge proponent of treating others like you want to be treated. I would presume most people would prefer not to be treated in a petty manner. I presume most people would not want insignificant comments to be blown out of proportion. Being petty in return is not a good use of the offended person’s time either. There are far more important matters to attend to.

In our political discourse, the candidates say childish things about each others, with some making that their platform. They would rather hang a label on someone than discuss an issue. And, the media feeds into this pissant discussion. They will go to a candidate and say “so and so just called you a monkey’s uncle, do you care to respond?” That is not good behavior for a leader or journalist. And, it certainly is not worth hearing.

With the advent of social media, being pissant is more widespread. It can devolve into a media that is representative of middle school. In too many instances, the pissant behavior does not even rank as high school, as it is more in tune with the horrid things that are said by seventh and eighth graders, when the filter between mouth and brain is not firmly developed.

The best solutions to folks being pissant are two-fold. First, do your best to avoid being pissant in the first place. Second, when someone is being pissant to you, don’t bite. Do not cede your control and keep the high road instead. As Dr. Phil likes to say, “keep the high road, as it is less crowded.” Be civil in your response and see what happens.

This may or may not surprise, when I have written to some state legislators, every so often I will receive a pissant retort. My response is civil and fact based. After one back and forth encounter, I shared it with an attorney who was keen on the issue in question. He said, in this interchange, it looks like your roles are reversed. He looks less like an elected official.

So, the addendum to Jesus’ Golden Rule paraphrased above, which appears in various forms in other religious texts, is “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. And, for my Father’s sake, don’t be a pissant.”



16 thoughts on “Do your best to avoid being a pissant

  1. It’s true! You really do learn something new every day. When reporters ask those questions I immediately feel like I’m a fly on the way at a therapy session or in a middle school. Ridiculous. This is how dumbed-down they believe everyone has become…disappointing.
    Love the Golden Rule. Simplicity with a punch.

    • Lisa, many thanks. It is funny, at the time I was writing this, the GOP frontrunner was using a very derogatory term to describe one of his opponents. As we consider his intended middle school insult about his opponent’s perceived weakness, I am reminded just last week said insulter was too frightened of a female reporter to show up at a debate. She was mean to him and asked him questions the last time. Not to defend this person’s politics, it should be noted the perceived weak person did show up at the same debate. Thanks again, Keith

  2. I do believe that our culture lacks maturity — perhaps as a result of having things too easy for too long. Even as adults we are spoiled children, and we want what we want when we want it! If we don’t get it, or someone thwarts our desires, we complain loudly. And civility?? You really are an optimist!

    • Hugh, that is a good description. When I see adults acting like children, it is of great concern. Their kids see this and emulate. We need the lessons of Wayne Dyer who spoke of defending the absent rather than joining in the gossip. I also agree we are spoiled. Many times the answer is just “no, you cannot get your way.” So, people need to deal with it and not throw a hissy fit. Or, if it is important, then they should pick their battles and civilly push back. Good comment, Keith

  3. As I was reading I was thinking od my grandchildren 12, 13, 14 who were calling each other names and just mean to each other. Over the years I’ve told them to treat people the way you want to be treated. My wise 13 year old says. I’m treating him the way he wants to be treated. 😉

    • Kim, they are right at that age aren’t they? The response I hear myself saying is “I said treat him like YOU want to be treated.” My wife and I wish we could have done some things better, but one thing we insisted on is treating each other civilly. Our kids do tease, but for the large part get along well and share their friends when they come over. Best wishes on this as it is not easy, Keith

  4. Note to Readers: From the Urban Dictionary, one of its entries. A pissant is described by Kurt Vonnegut in his novel, Cat’s Cradle, as follows:

    “A pissant is somebody who thinks he’s so damn smart, he can never keep his mouth shut. No matter what anybody says, he’s got to argue with it. You say why you like something, and, by God, he’ll tell you why you’re wrong to like it. A pissant does his best to make you feel like a boob all the time. No matter what you say, he knows better.”

  5. Note to Readers: The example I used with a state legislator occurred when I shared with members of the General Assembly that a Voter ID law being proposed was unconstitutional and Jim Crow like with its many provisions designed to suppress votes of African-Americans. I was chastised in derogatory terms by one of its drafters. My response was civil and included some facts, to which I received another unhelpful retort.

    It should be noted that after becoming law, it was ruled unconstitutional with appellate court citing one reason being a “laser like precision” in suppressing African-American votes. I have learned through the years the more labels and name-calling a politician uses, his arguments tend to have less veracity.

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