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.”