A compliment greater than which nothing can be conceived, an insult like they just aborted said compliment

45. I don’t know if I’ve ever bought my own clothes. I’ve bought dress shirts in the past five years, but other than that, most of my clothes are just gifts, give-aways, or old clothes my mom gave me. [1]What I mean is my mom still buys me clothes. Fine!

A while ago, after seeing that Deutlich didn’t have to come up with her own topics, I decided to ask Um Yum to choose a topic for me. She chose a fabulous topic and, because I didn’t want to screw it up, I took my sweet time writing about it.

Her topic was thusly:

At your request, I have a topic I would like you to write about. What was
the worst thing someone ever said to you? Was it just a word? A phrase? A
humongous spite-ridden speech? What were the circumstances in which this
person said this. And of course on the flip side, what’s the best compliment
you ever received? :o)

It occurred to me that people have, in the past, said things that were really hurtful, but while I could vaguely remember the time and place, I couldn’t remember what was said or who said it. It was like a defense mechanism.

So I began to write down what I thought would make a comment particularly hurtful. Here’s my list:

  1. It has to come from someone I respect.
  2. It has to attack something I consider to be a strength or great weakness.
  3. It has to be something I was relatively unaware about.
  4. It has to be true.
  5. I have to accept it.

Instantly I thought about the time in high school when my so-called best friends wrote a newsletter where I was at the butt of every joke. [2]I suppose they were justified, seeing as how I’d let the power of being in charge of the local media get to my head. But it still hurt. That was tough, but a lot of what they wrote wasn’t true.

Then I thought of the many times people have attacked my laugh, my jokes, or my sense of humor. Those always sting, but then I realize that not all jokes are for everybody and ignore them.

I thought of this past weekend, when a philosopher accused me of committing the Naturalistic Fallacy and making and invalid argument in the philosophical paper that got me into grad school. But then I realized she was wrong and just a bit crazy.

Finally I realized the perfect hurtful thing: The comments my professor wrote on that same paper. In fact, I had nightmares about them for weeks! The thing was: my paper did suck at the time, only I didn’t realize it because I’d never tried to write at a graduate student level before. I thought my paper was wonderful. His comments hurt because he wasn’t doing it to hurt me, he wanted to help me. And, to do so, he couldn’t pull any punches. And everything he said was true. And I accepted it. But oh, did that hurt.

Luckily, for every insult, there’s an equal and opposite compliment. That professor has given me a bunch since then, but the one I’m thinking of is from a guy I respect as well. His compliment is about something I consider to be a weakness, but try at anyway. He’s Tony and he once had a blog called Conceptual Drudgery. Now he just hangs out at Cre8buzz, presumably creating buzz for other people. He just wrote:

Congrats on the grad program! Sounds like you’re pulling a Kerouac in the meantime. Of all the impressive things you’re sure to go off and do…remember your literary fans. You’re a talented writer. I’ll be sure to tune in to your blog.

:o)

Update: Remember my professor that wrote the comments on my paper?  Keep in mind I’m being sincere when I say I appreciated them.  He went out of his way, taking hours of his time to contemplate my paper and point out the weaknesses in it before any graduate schools could get their hands on it.  I just found out that he’s being nominated for an award for excellence in teaching.  I’m going to pay him back.  Finally.  I’m going to write a letter of recommendation for him in the hopes that my story will put him over the top for this award.  Joy!

Notes   [ + ]

1. What I mean is my mom still buys me clothes. Fine!
2. I suppose they were justified, seeing as how I’d let the power of being in charge of the local media get to my head. But it still hurt.

About Pixel

Pixel Q. Styx refuses to talk about himself. If thou wishest, thou may infer from his blog what thou wishest.

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3 Responses to A compliment greater than which nothing can be conceived, an insult like they just aborted said compliment

  1. Um...Yum! says:

    I was starting to think you hated my topic. I like that you put a lot of thought into it.

    We definitely have extremely different feelings on what is hurtful. I’m more hurt by things that were just said just to attack rather than be constructive.

    That’s really cool about your teacher. Good luck to him on the award! 🙂

  2. Pixel says:

    I understand what you mean about attacks for attack’s sake being hurtful, but I always tend to discount people who have nothing worthwhile to say. It’s when they’re RIGHT and SMART that it hurts me. Otherwise, I find it hard to listen anyway.

    p.s. Do you have another topic for me? I’ll try to write it up sooner next time. 😀

  3. Phil Plasma says:

    I went through my teenage years learning to live with the creed ‘be sensitive to people’s sensitivities and be insensitive to people’s insensitivities’. Now it is second nature – if someone issues a particularly hurtful comment towards me I consider that to be rather insensitive so I do not let it bother me. As you point out, if that comment contains a grain of truth, I do my best to extract that grain and make use of it.

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