Tuesday, June 16, 2009

One Hundred Things My Mother Taught Me A Million Times - Chapter 7

#7 - "There's more than one way to skin a cat."
As adults, we seem to forget that children tend to take things very literally. When I was a little girl and my mom would say, "Well, there's more than one way to skin a cat," I would picture a dead cat, hanging upside down by a rope, mom standing there with a knife trying to decide which way to skin it this time. I never saw my mom skin a cat, but I was sure she must have. Otherwise, how would she know that there was more than one way to do it. I never said to my mom, "Why would you skin a cat?" Kids often don't ask about things they don't understand , and adults are often oblivious to their confusion.

Of course I eventually figured out that what mom was talking about was tolerance, and gal-howdy is this a big one. Of all of the one hundred things my mom taught me a million times, this may be the most important. I suspect that few would say that tolerance is bad, but many would say that when we don't stand up for what we believe, our life becomes a compromise.

Personally, I'm a big fan of compromise. I'd rather be peaceful than right. In fact, I've always told my children that being right feels good for 15 minutes, but sometimes the damage you inflict by arguing last a lifetime. My daughter says "pick your battles." The trick is knowing when to stand and when to retreat. Mea culpa! I may not need to be right, but I am a control freak so I really, really need to watch that behavior in myself!

Some people seem to live to be right - about everything. They breath conflict, thrive on challenge, wear their rightness like a banner, or more like an armor. Unfortunately they sometimes pay dearly, driving away friends and family. They have their beliefs and their honor - but any love they receive may be obligatory or based in pity - what a sad, lonely existence.

Back to skinning cats and intolerance, which brings to mind bad religion. I say "bad religion" meaning, when people practice their religion in a way that says, "I'm right, you're wrong." Jesus, who was a pretty smart guy, taught tolerance, as does most religions, but leave it to those "I'm right you're wrong" idiots to screw it up. I remember mom taking me to every church in our little town. She wanted me to see the good, the bad and the ugly about religion, and to learn tolerance, and I did. There's not much better at bringing people together and giving them comfort than religion, and not much more nasty than what bad religion can do.

So I think that mom was right - in a good way. There is more than one way to skin a cat. You just don't want to make a mess.


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