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A New Courage

HISTORICAL POST - Original date: 6/28/2008 at 11:35 p.m.

Tonight, after watching An American in Paris with P, she lent me two books. One of them was a Brave New World. Now I intend to start reviewing the books I read for everyone's perusal, but the title really hit home with events from earlier in the day.

I have this policy, which you may or may not know about. It is a personal standard that I live by - when I think something nice about a person, I tell them. This policy applies to walking past people who smell good, or noticing shoes, umbrellas, appetizing smelling homemade lunches, whatever. It also encompasses a much greater array of "nice thoughts" as well.

My rationale is that you never know if someone is having a bad day, or had never received this particular compliment before and now, they will know that someone thought this nice thing about them. (I feel inclined to note here that I often think more things than I am able to share and I also tend to do this more in person than in correspondence - so don't feel left out!) The only risk to this otherwise (I think) benevolent behavior, is that people can get startled by the news that they "smell good" from a complete stranger. Also, some people (myself included) just don't always know how to take a compliment.

Today, instead of giving one particular compliment, I didn't. I let the moment pass me by. Everything was lined up and the conversation was steering itself towards it (as opposed to me trying to bring it up), but I lost my nerve (or so I thought).

I walked away feeling terrible about it. What if they needed it? What if a better moment never arises? But, the truth is, it was the right thing to do. It was like being on a diet and when faced with a chocolate sundae, I decided not to say it looked delicious. Because saying it aloud could encourage an unfavorable behavior.

In the past, I have more freely given the particular comment I withheld today. One time it resulted in my best friend. Other times it led to utter misinterpretation and long-winded explanations (you know the old saying, if you have to explain the joke, it wasn't any good). So, although I second-guessed myself, I'm glad I found the courage NOT to say something, instead of the courage to say something that could have been damaging.

(2009 Update: I obviously never finished writing this and have no idea who this was written about! Guess it proves it couldn't have been that important to tell them.)