3 Ways To Avoid Being “Too Smart For Your Own Good”

I’m no genius, and there are many, especially family members, who can attest to this. Sure it’s true, I was always an Honor’s Student and fared well on standardized tests. But, as we all know, there’s a huge difference between book smart and street smart; between the three Rs (reading, writing and ‘rithmetic) and a few other three R’s of note.  For example:

  • The three R’s of animal welfare research: Replacement, Reduction, and Refinement. As a former franchisee for The Body Shop, our store was always advocating for no animal research for any of our products (soaps, scents and cosmetics).  Replacing the use of animals in research is definitely something I support. Reducing the number of animals used for such research seems like a poor excuse for continuing something that shouldn’t be done in the first place. And finally, Refinement of research methods to minimize animal pain, suffering or distress is another half-measure that only delays Replacement which should happen immediately.
  • The three R’s of sustainability: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.  I’ve practiced these for sure but it’s not always convenient, possible or simple to do so.  It’s also very interesting to read the research on the use of plastic bags, paper bags and cloth or canvas bags when grocery shopping.  But this is another topic for a future post.

Following the mnemonic alliteration pattern of the three R’s mentioned above, here’s my Three R’s to avoid being “too smart for your own good.”  They are Resist, Reflect and Respect and here’s what they mean to me:

  1. Resist the temptation to immediately correct a misguided or ignorant comment made by another. As we’ve all learned, it doesn’t take long on social media these days to read something that sounds uncaring, unthoughtful or even intentionally offensive.  And as Forrest Gump once said, “Stupid is as stupid does.”  Well, stupid or not, I think it’s important not to jump into the fray when confronted (or baited?) by the remarks of a truant or a troll.  Casting your pearls of wisdom more than once can say more about you than the original ill-spoken one.
  2. Next comes Reflect, the second R, which suggests it’s worth considering the “audience” and determining what they are actually saying, trying to say, or deliberating “pissing on” if that’s the situation.  A question or reference or even a gentle “good luck in your future endeavors” may be the better way to end a poor conversation. Sometimes you just have to say “Goodbye” if your reflection suggests no good can come from further conversation.
  3. And finally, Respect is the third R and this begins with respecting yourself.  If your emotions are triggered there’s no need to “pull the trigger” in response.  The kindest and most effective thing you can do is “put on your own oxygen mask first before you attempt to assist another.” And while taking your personal protective measures, consider how you can best respect the other.  Sometimes it’s allowing time for their cooling, their schooling, or for others to do the over-ruling.  Let your friends, or supporters, do the “responding” which allows you to move on to the next, hopefully more rational, person.  A couple of thoughts come to mind:

a) It was Jesus who said “If some home or town will not welcome you or listen to you, then leave that place and shake the dust off your feet.” (Matthew 10:14 Good News Translation)

b) And it is Thich Nhat Hanh who said “We have to take good care of ourselves. If you listen too much to the suffering, the anger of other people, you will be affected….This will destroy your balance…We need to receive the nourishment we deserve.” Anger, Wisdom for Cooling the Flames © 2001 Riverhead Books. pp 95-96  

In other words, letting go of others’ ignorance, as well as our own “smartness”, often means showing kindness-with-restraint to all parties involved.  Sometimes the most respectful thing you can do is let the other person find their truth elsewhere without letting them pull you down in their learning process.

I’m curious, do you have a set of three R’s? Please leave a comment.

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