Saturday, November 9, 2013

"Mature" and Respectful

When I was in middle school, I took a quiz in American Girl's guide to manners, which asked if you would do inconsiderate things while you were out and about. These things included:
1. Picking flowers when a sign says not to.
2. Littering.
3. Throwing a rock over the edge of the Grand Canyon, when a sign says not to because it's dangerous for people below.
4. Picking up a bird's nest with eggs in it to put on your dresser as an ornament.
5. Carving your initials into ancient ruins.
6. Playing your radio really loudly at a crowded beach.

For each question, you would pick, "Yes, that's me," "I might do this," or "I'd never do this." At the time, I picked "I might do this" for all of them.

I was looking over this quiz again recently, I realized that I hadn't answered it correctly. I don't mean because I've changed now - I mean, I know how I was in middle school, and I know that would not have done most of these things. The only thing I honestly might have done back then was turning up the radio too loud at the beach (which I wouldn't do now). So why did I choose "I might do this" for all of them?

Well, part of it came from the wording of the quiz. "Never" seemed like a lot to commit to, and the questions made doing the wrong thing sound so tempting, like "The flowers are so beautiful" and "It's just one candy wrapper, look what everyone else has dropped here." In the fictional scenarios, it seemed harder to resist the urge than it would have been for me in real life. But beyond that, part of it was a choice. I just didn't want to be a goody-goody who followed all the rules and did what adults wanted me to do. Remember, this was in a book about good manners, and the questions made all of the actions sound really tempting, like I'd really be making a sacrifice by doing what I was "supposed" to do. And that just wasn't me.

The reason I feel good saying "I'd never do this" to all of those choices now is not because I'm more mature or whatever - it's because now, I view my behavior in those situations as respectful and considerate, not as following the rules.

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