Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously by Patty LaRoche

Eighty-three-year-old Howard, a tennis partner of Dave and mine in Mexico, commented about Carolyn, a Canadian friend who also winters in Mazatlan. Carolyn had been ailing for several months and had lost so much weight, she offered me all of her “big-sized clothes” because she no longer could wear them.

(Good friends do that, you know.)

Both men and I were discussing Carolyn’s weight loss. Howard said she looked feeble. It was an opening I could not resist.

Howard, do you think I’m feeble?”

He took no time to respond. “I think you’re a tank.”

The cannonball had been shot. It was too late to reload.

I responded, as together as my personality would allow. “A tank? I’M A TANK?”

Backpedaling out of this potential war zone, Howard attempted to take a different aim. “A tank, in a good sense. Like a formidable force, an arsenal to be reckoned with.”

It was a nice save, I’ll admit, even if it was too desperate and too late.

For Howard, that is. It was the perfect time for Dave to defend me.

And he would have, I’m sure, had he been able to stop laughing.

Howard would live to regret that remark. Everyone who knows Howard—who, not coincidentally, headed the lab that worked on the first nuclear bomb and frequently uses military metaphors– soon learned of his verbal faux pas, which, of course, I couldn’t wait to share. His size-two wife was mortified, and our other friends at first were shocked by his directness. Then it became funny, the word spread and tank jokes became the norm.

To everyone’s—except Howard’s delight, I must add.

Was I offended? Absolutely not. I know Howard. I know his intent. As a military man, he honestly thought he was paying me a compliment.

And no, my head is not stuck in a turret. I am well aware that there are others whose “tank” comment would be anything but funny. The truth is, we are all concerned about Carolyn’s weight loss (which, I must admit, I have found.) Add to that the fact that when I play the net in tennis and the men try to break my nose with their shot, I say “Bring it on!” instead of acting wimpy. Howard knows I am tough, a trait I wear like a badge of honor.

No one likes to be around thin-skinned people who don’t take laughter seriously. In medieval times, those who viewed themselves with such self-importance that they acted with extreme seriousness were labeled “accidy,” which just “happens” to be one of the seven deadly sins. People like the Pharisees were viewed in this light. They poked fun at nothing, especially themselves. B-O-R-I-N-G!

I am the opposite. I laugh at myself. As a Christian, I must, if I am to obey God and love my neighbors. In 1 Corinthians 13:5, we learn that “loving” means we are not to be easily provoked or stirred to anger. When the fuse of offense is lit, I must check the intent and ask God to guard my heart and help my reaction.

I have watched marriages dissolve and friendships implode because one (or both) of the parties are hyper-sensitive. Innocent comments offend those who are so preoccupied with “self” that they fail to understand that we all are sinners, we all make mistakes, we all say things without thinking them through.

Please don’t misunderstand me. This column is not about comments intended to wound or destroy. This is about not taking ourselves so seriously. There is a huge difference, much like a tank to a pistol. To make it clear…Howard’s a pistol.

I’m a tank.

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