Some of you will remember the wise words of your mother, telling you to always make sure that you are wearing clean with no holes underwear, in case you are involved in an accident! A nurse friend of mine testifies to the fact that staff in hospital emergency rooms pay attention to this! This is perhaps an extreme example of “We Are Never Off Duty,” but it is an example. How many times have you worn something in which you look less than your best, to just run into the grocery store, hoping that you don’t see someone that you know?! (And of course you do!) These are only two examples of “We are Never Off Duty.” There are many others.
Don’t mistake this point as meaning that you can never be casual; of course you can, but you should not be sloppy. What this really means is that who we are and how we want the world to see us is represented in our outward appearance and behavior. I am reminded of the phrase, “Who you are speaks so loudly, I can’t hear what you say.” As such, I had no choice yesterday but to respond to a Facebook posting of a 4th grade teacher who was making a political statement, with an obscene gesture and cleavage showing. I do not even recall her exact political position; I could not get past the fact that she was so inappropriately dressed and making an obscene gesture, and that she is a poor role model to our children and grandchildren.
I ignore so many of these Facebook postings, but I could not ignore this latest one. If this 4th grade teacher did not know how inappropriate she was, regardless of the position she was taking on the issue, then someone needed to tell her! I have ignored some of my family’s inappropriate Facebook postings, for I have not been willing to risk offending not just them but their parents and grandparents. I suppose it is easier to take those risks with those whom we do not know. This reinforces that these Facebook “friends” aren’t really friends at all, at least not in a manner that we are willing to take the risk to honestly express our opinions. And I realize that there is a fine line here. We need to be careful about judging others. We do need to be careful that we do not inappropriately evaluate others by our standards. But when we put our thoughts out into the public sphere, such as I do in this blog post, we are opening ourselves up to the opinions of others. Some of those opinions will be positive, and some negative. And when we give those opinions we can still be kind in how we say what we say. (I am not so sure that how I replied to that Facebook posting was a kind as it could have been.)
Fanny Brice said many years ago, “Let the world know you as you are, not as you think you should be. For sooner or later if you are posing you will forget the pose, then where will you be?” This quote speaks to the main message of this; authenticity. Does your outward appearance and behavior represent who you really are, and how you want to be perceived?” For if there is a disconnect between what we say and what we do, people judge us based upon their perception of what we do. An example. I am a direct communicator, and some would say, too direct! While I may hear myself as being direct, others can hear me as being too direct, and even directive, or aggressive. Once I really integrated this, I have worked hard to still be direct, but not too direct, or directive. When I am on my best behavior, I try to remember to soften my voice, since direct language and a harsh tone magnify each other. And this is even more important when we are communicating in writing, for the written word lacks the nonverbal aspects of communication that can “soften” the written word. I will be honest and admit that this isn’t easy for me; sometimes I succeed, and sometimes I fail. I am a work in process.
Recognizing that we are “never off duty,” are we comfortable with who we are? If so, great! If not, let’s choose one aspect of our appearance or behavior that we want to change, and begin the process today. Forward movement, even one small step at the time, will get us closer to who we want to be.