A Critical Spirit And Getting Scolded | Mark’s Remarks - Republic-Times | News

A Critical Spirit And Getting Scolded | Mark’s Remarks

By on August 8, 2018 at 10:00 am

I think there is a common thread, or many common threads, that run in groups of people who grow up in small communities.

In those places, everyone knows everyone. Although you have a close community in which people tend to be helpful, neighborly and friendly, you also have people who do a lot of back stabbing, talking behind backs and criticizing. 

Folks in small communities don’t like it if you are “too much” of anything. You aren’t supposed to be too smart, too neat, too talented or talk too much.  You aren’t supposed to dress too nice or be too fancy, as folks will think you are “putting on airs.” But they won’t tell you to your face: they will wait until you go home and talk about you later.

I grew up in such a place and learned to be nice to folks and have good manners, but most of the people I knew were prone to criticism and talking out of both sides of their mouth. After all, it’s another thing to avoid conflict. Because, you see, if you confront someone you risk having that person shun you for the rest of your lives. 

I can think of several people from small towns who have had some falling out, or even a minor miscommunication, and have halted all interaction with that person. Even if it was a family member. I think you could talk to many people raised in small towns and get the same story.

I do it so much I don’t even notice it. I will vent to Michelle about someone or a group of people. She listens, like a dutiful spouse, but often interjects with a sweeter, more understanding demeanor. But I know I am safe with her and she lets me spout off whenever.

When things aren’t the way I want them to be, or when I am particularly far away from a good prayer life or reading my Bible, I get downright curmudgeonly. I get to where I don’t like anyone. I mean, I like them, but I have a very low tolerance for anything out of the ordinary.  I don’t like too much small talk or too much rambling. Can you believe that after trudging through all these paragraphs? 

In those times of my life, I prefer to be alone and quiet, limiting my peer group to those who live in my house.

So I was surprised, or maybe I wasn’t, when my 12-year-old son piped up one day with “Dad, you don’t seem to have a good word for anyone.” He just said it. It wasn’t in an accusatory tone or anything. He just said it. 

I was stunned. My gut reaction was to say “You watch it, buster.” But I didn’t. I just said nothing. There was nothing to say to him.

Later, I talked with him and thanked him for telling me that.  I told him he was right. This seemed to be a powerful thing to do, as I have seen in our relationship over the last few years.  He has accepted that his parents aren’t perfect and I know he feels he can come to us with just about anything.

But he WAS right. I go on long jags where I am ready to criticize anyone. I can find something wrong with everyone, even if I care about them very much. Even when I do it with humor, it’s not a proper attitude. And I’m ashamed of myself.

It isn’t easy to hear such criticism from children, but I’ve found over the years that kids are often very insightful and are pretty spot-on when it comes to figuring out adults. 

We can only pray we are good examples to them each day.

Mark Tullis

Mark is a 25-year veteran teacher teaching in Columbia. Originally from Fairfield, Mark is married with four children. He enjoys reading, writing, and spending time with his family, and has been involved in various aspects of professional and community theater for many years and enjoys appearing in local productions. Mark has also written a "slice of life" style column for the Republic-Times since 2007.