Burn This One?

With some 7 billion people on Earth at any given time, I can certainly afford to burn this one.

Nobody says this, but we may think something like it. Here’s what I mean.

Sometimes the WinSome process seems too tedious, or too demanding. Sometimes, I don’t want to make a friend. I don’t have time to listen to learn. I’m too impatient to earn a hearing. Just this once, I want to go off on someone — just burn them rhetorically. Burn them good.

Be honest. You’ve thought it.

Why should I have to put up with these idiots? Why do I have to be the gracious one? This guy is never going to change. He’s not smart enough to get it. Why should I waste my time?

And why shouldn’t I enjoy the pleasure of really teeing off on someone — giving him a piece of my mind, schooling him big time!

I won’t lie. This is not just an occasional temptation. It’s a continual challenge.

It gets worse if you have a bit of rhetorical skill. After more than a decade of writing satire and doing five shows a week of political commentary, I’ve developed the ability to turn a phrase, to deliver a cutting remark, to embarrass a guy, or to make a point that’s tough to refute.

If you’re like me you face an even bigger temptation. Not retaliating verbally is like keeping your sword in its scabbard when you’re under attack. If you have some skill with the blade, it wants to feel your hand clasp its haft, to gleam in the sun, to whistle through the air and to make its mark. It takes tremendous self-control to keep it by your side.

But that’s not the WinSome way.

I’m not going to tell you WinSome is easy. It’s just worth it. It’s worth the effort to restrain your inner warrior. Or perhaps it’s more accurate to say that it’s worth your effort to channel and discipline your inner warrior’s approach, because you never stop wanting to win. You just change what it means to win, because defeating the other guy doesn’t satisfy if your ideas don’t get adopted by more people.

Because you likely live in the land of liberty, I’m not going to tell you that you can’t just burn someone rhetorically. You can. But I will suggest that the aftermath of doing so can reverberate for a long time, causing negative consequences, and damaging your ability to persuade others.

After you tear into someone, not only may you have to deal with that person going forward, but even if you never see him again, others may witness your verbal tirade. Someone might video record it and it could go viral online. Your “burn victim” may also relate the story of your attack to others, and the narrative can ripple out from there. Worse, if your foolish enough to attack another person on social media, it can get shared, and never go away. It’s a small world, made smaller by the Internet. Bad news spreads much faster than good.

I’m sure you can think of other reasons to restrain your urge to burn someone. Perhaps you still remember previous situations you wish you could forget. Trust me, the other person has not forgotten. Now, would be a good time to apologize for that, and to get a fresh start rebuilding your credibility.

President Abraham Lincoln, known for his gracious manner, could also lose his temper. But not many of his contemporaries remembered Lincoln raging. After his assassination, his writing desk was discovered to contain angry notes which he penned, then tucked into crevices in the desk…and never sent.

It’s not a bad idea to get it out of your system, but it’s never helpful to take it out on someone else.

I wrote this little chapter, because I need to read it. I doubt that I’m alone.