Pleading Guilty: Self-righteous Busy Body in the First Degree

Comments to my last post gave me a lot to think about. My critics accused me of butting in where I had no business when I criticized a man for leaving his car running for over 45 minutes while parked. They called me a lot of things but “self-righteous busy body” sums it up. And of all the things to be called, that really smarts, because that is precisely my least favorite person. But I guess this is not surprising, that we would harbor those traits that we abhor in others.

I’ve always hoped that I would get some pushback on my posts to liven things up, and I guess this qualifies as a “be careful what you wish for” moment. But it was very enlightening for me, and here is what I learned:

  • Critics have a point: That perspective from the other side is worth considering, no matter how tempting it is to defend yourself and blast them back. In this case I have to admit that I would probably do it again on the basis that sometimes it is worth being a self-righteous busy body. After all, the line between good citizen and busy body can be fuzzy. But I will think twice next time, which is probably good advice for us all.
  • Humor disappears: I couldn’t seem to convince my critics that putting potatoes in the exhaust pipe was a fantasy, that I would never do that…well, almost never, but certainly not in that case. Writing style is tricky. I try for easy, clever, entertaining, maybe with a little surprise. But when you have offended someone as I did, the humor is lost and the lens is literal. Another insight to remember when I take something literally that may not be meant that way.
  • Stereotypes take over: I assumed that my critics were all …well, I don’t need to go there. Let’s just say I assumed beliefs and values that are different from mine. I actually don’t know if that’s true, but making those assumptions was the easiest way to distinguish myself from them, to make them the “other.” On their part, they made it clear that they were assuming I was a rigid, humorless, strident, politically correct snob. I plead guilty to busy-body but not the rest…well, let me think about it. Anyway, it hurt to be stereotyped, and I’m sorry I stereotyped them.
  • Dismissing comes next: After stereotyping comes dismissing. “I know who they are and that’s enough.” No need or desire to keep talking, to learn more. The comment that hurt most – yes, even more than self-righteous busy body — was “Just ignore her.”  To be dismissed as not worth another breath, another word, that really got me. I wanted to know more about my critics, and I wanted them to know that I wasn’t the monster they thought I was. How often do I hear friends say they hope they never meet someone from the “other side.” They would never want to talk to them or hear their story. This kind of dismissal hurts. Take it from me.

I confess that much as I welcomed the pushback I did cringe at every new attack (see   for more of it).

And how sweet was a final comment from one of the critics, “Thank you for your reasoned and adult responses. This could have easily turned into an internet fecal storm.”

So, do I still wish for pushback? Yes, indeed, bring it on. I’ve got my umbrella open.





4 thoughts on “Pleading Guilty: Self-righteous Busy Body in the First Degree”

  1. Hi Lucy,
    Interesting dynamic. In the late 60s I was the bad guy in a Palo Alto shopping center. An older woman told me to turn off the ignition; can’t remember why I was idling. I felt attacked; here I was a good environmentalist biking to the recycling center with bags of cans and bottles dangling. But I knew she was right and I turned the key. However I was smarting. Could she have left me feeling a little better? Showing me how to gain good karma? Tricky. I doubt your guy would have shut down; older, no wish to please a cranky old woman.

    Glad you’re out there probing.

    Cheers from Priscilla

    1. Thanks, Priscilla. Great story, and I’m impressed with how vivid it is for you after fifty or so years. And good question: how to be that good citizen of the planet and not make it “smart” for your victim? Hearing from a stranger that you are doing something offensive is more embarrassing that hearing it from your child or partner or friend, at least for me.

  2. Dear Lucy,
    I found this post, basically a primer on how to deal with criticism, enormously helpful and full of insights. Even with critics are right in their criticism, it still stings. The disappearance of humor and stereotyping have effectively closed my mind to what really were wise comments that could have helped me do a better job at whatever I was doing. Isn’t humor a remarkable gift to keep us compassionate even to numbskulls??
    Keep up your good work.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *