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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Familiarity Breeds Contempt

There is something that both amazes and pleases many parents, at the same time, about their children's behaviour. Your son for example, spends some time at a friend's place and you speak to the friend's parent, thanking them for looking after your son, and they say, it was a pleasure having him. No trouble at all! He's so quiet. You ask yourself: who are they talking about? Not my son. It couldn't be. Quiet? He's not quiet at home.

Hands up if you've ever had that experience? It's not that much of a mystery at all really. Most children subconsciously modify their behaviour depending on their circumstances. They reserve their worst behaviour for the people they know best: their parents. Most of those children grow into adults who consciously alter their behaviour depending on the situation in which they find themselves. Do you only show your worst to the people you know best? Familiarity breeds contempt. Ouch! That shouldn't be true, but it is.

In different groups of people, we act differently. Especially when we are new to that group. Or is just me? Am I the only one who bites my tongue when I strongly disagree with someone I have just me, and with whom I am going to have to spend more than five minutes? Aren't we all naturally more relaxed and friendly when the people we are with are chilled and amiable? Am I the only one who doesn't say much until he figures out the dynamics of a new group?

Sometimes I actually admire those people who apparently aren't bound by the aformentioned conventions. They act the same, speak the same to all people, in every situation. They are seemingly so comfortable with themselves that they can be themselves all the time. Or is it a lack of self awareness and sensitivity rather than a supreme sense of comfort in their own skin, that makes them act so?

Take the guy who drops the F-bomb regardless of who hears it. Or the woman whose breasts always overflow her low cut dresses. Or the man who makes tasteless jokes, which he thinks are funny, just to break the ice. What about the woman who laughs like a woodpecker, or the fella who has to virtually touch his nose to yours in order to speak with you? Or how about those who have loud personal conversations in public places?

When does 'just being yourself' end, and causing offence, or public nuisance, begin? When does adjusting your behaviour, (controlling yourself) out of sensitivity or simple shyness or caution end, and being a faker, or a game player begin?

If you have simple answers to these questions, I'd love to hear them but Solomon's been dead for thousands of years, and I'm just bumbling through life by the grace of God. Sometimes I don't know who I am.

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