Indignation: when righteous is wrong

I’m back to blogging after a wonderful vacation in Arizona. Amazing what standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon can do to restore perspective! I had dozens of ideas for blog posts while I was traveling, but, as is often the case, it was something I spotted online this morning that motivated me to write.

Seth Godin’s post Righteous indignation puts forth a challenge: What if we consciously decide that righteous indignation (with all its ranting and raving and self-justification) is no longer an option for us? That it will no longer be available in our “toolbox of responses”?

“Just think of how much more you’d get done and how much calmer everything would be,” Seth writes.

If I’d come across his post yesterday, my reaction might have been that, hey, I do a lot of humor writing and draping myself in a cloak of righteous indignation is a highly entertaining stance to take in a column. Give up that option? Unlikely.

But this morning I got a phone call from a friend (let’s call her “Sasha”) who had just been “fired” by a client. The client (we’ll call her “Ms. Snit”) was in the throes of righteous indignation about a research report from Sasha that revealed some unfavorable trends affecting Ms. Snit’s company.

Sasha had been subjected to a harangue in which she was called incompetent, unprofessional, and a liar. Sasha is a highly regarded researcher, with years of experience in her field. She said she’d stood her ground with the client, but, clearly, she was shaken. She said what troubled her wasn’t the unpleasantness of disappointing a client and losing business (we’ve all had that happen), but by the client’s tone.

After I got off the phone with Sasha, I went back and re-read Seth’s post. And then I looked up a couple of my humor columns to see if I really was making a habit of ranting and raving. What I noticed was this: In the vast majority of the pieces, I started out snarling and sniping but, by the end of the piece, ended up making fun of myself for doing so.

Because people who run around being righteously indignant often end up looking pretty damn silly.

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