To the Self-Righteous People Who Need a Pat on the Back

by Bill Brenner on June 21, 2016

I’ve mentioned before that kids today are addicted to accolades, that being told how awesome they are has become more important than actually achieving anything. It’s time to be fair to the kids and admit it’s not just them.

We adults are just as bad — maybe even worse.

Mood music:

Armed with Facebook and Twitter accounts, we adults have the power to communicate like no other time in the past. And a lot of us use them to make big, self-righteous declarations without any supporting facts and with an acute aversion to being disagreed with. Praise has become a currency craved as badly as money.

I’ll admit my own sins. I’ve gone through periods where my head has grown three sizes too large because people have told me something I wrote was awesome. I’ve had a fair share of criticism come my way, and I haven’t always taken it like a man. And self-righteousness? I’m sure if someone wanted to do an inventory of past blog posts, they’d find something fitting the criteria with my name on it.

I’ve tried hard to break myself of that in the last couple years. It’s one of the reasons I don’t post as much as I used to. The realities of life have brought me crashing to earth, too. Starting a new job and continuing to manage my father’s unfinished business has changed my priorities. When you have thousands of dollars of legal bills and six-figure building upgrade costs to worry about, your number of Twitter followers and search for praise becomes more trivial.

Delivering on work responsibilities has become more important than getting attention for a Facebook post.

So when I see someone making big statements online and having a tantrum when someone offers an alternative point of view, it strikes me as a dumb waste of time. The issues people get their undergarments in a twist over are as big as the sky: gay rights, gun-owner rights, presidential politics and a thousand other things. If you have an opinion on any of these and you slap someone down because they disagreed with you instead of patting you on the back, you might be part of the problem.

Just try to remember a few things:

  • Our critics make us smarter if we’re willing to listen to them.
  • The realities of the world are never as clear cut as we like to believe.
  • We can get heaping portions of praise online and feel good about it, but in 100 years the legacy we leave behind will be what people remember, not who thought we were awesome on Twitter in 2016.
  • Compassion and fairness travel a two-way street and it only takes one stubborn jerk to cause a traffic jam.

I know I’m not striking the perfect balance all the time, and if you disagree with anything I’ve said here, be as brutal as you like.

I might not see your criticism, though. I’m busy having a life.

Flames in the shape of a hand giving the middle finger

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