Unpacking the Secret Sin of My Scornful Suitcase

Dear Henry,

I'm taking a rather in-depth course requiring studying,  weekend availability, and evenings in a classroom. So, of course, the evening classes are a bummer. The entire class is tired, grumpy, and needs dinner. The class also has "one of those people," you know, the person who has unlimited questions and requires a lot of clarification.  

It isn't that the questions are bad, and, in fact, I've learned a lot because of those questions, but because everyone would rather be someplace else, every question invites scoffing, signing, and, invariably, eye-rolling. Or, in other words, scorn. Whenever I see the reactions, I cringe because I know the questioner can feel the atmosphere around them, and I'm sure it hurts their feelings.

Scorn is so hurtful to others; if I'm honest, I'm guilty of doing it too.

Not about questions, though (as impatient as I may feel about missing dinner time).  However, when it comes to all things suffering, I can be pretty darn scornful, and I was confronted with that truth the other day during adoration.

As I sat in the darkened sanctuary, I was reminded of a woman to whom I was pretty scornful. She had "the life." She was born into the uppermost echelons of the middle class and went from her father's house to her husband's house with nary a job. She scooted around town in a cute little convertible BMW (which was replaced every couple of years) with personalized plates and a snarky little bumper sticker. When I met her, she was trying to plan her daughter's extravagant wedding and reception and cope with poorly managed osteoarthritis. No one suffered as much as this woman did. Just ask her.
My background is significantly different from hers (see "The Accident" and "Can Anyone Cry Job's Tears" for clarification), and so my go-to reaction when this woman spoke was blistering, eye-rolling scorn. And in the quiet of the adoration chapel, it was suddenly clear as to why. I was jealous of the opportunities I felt she had and the life of ease I felt she lived.

The tenth commandment is so easy to break.

Worse, I didn't really want her life. I'm quite sure that dealing with her demanding husband, self-righteous father, spoiled daughter, and all of the 150 entitled guests attending the wedding would have set me up for several violations of the fifth commandment. Nor did I wish my challenges on her (or anyone, for that matter). But I felt she didn't appreciate her life and thought that given the same opportunities, I could have done a better job with the whole affair.

But could I? Can someone decide that they would have done a better job with someone else's life?  And really, would I even have the same attitude I have now had I been raised with those opportunities?

And, let's be honest, I live in a world of middle-class America, and most of my worries are about air conditioning repairs and landscape design. I live in a clean house with a clean bed, and according to my bathroom scale, I have plenty of food to eat. I live in a safe neighborhood with a yard and access to clean water. I have the freedom to attend the church of my choice and read the newspaper I want. I always have access to Diet Pepsi. Finally, I've been able to take great advantage of Western Medicine. My life is richer and more comfortable than the lives of a great majority of the world, and despite all that I have been through, I have nothing to complain about.  

It wasn't until I left adoration and came across a quote from the Persian poet Hafez who said, "What do sad people have in common? It seems they have all built a shrine to the past and often go there and do a strange wail and worship. What is the beginning of happiness? It is to stop being so religious like that."  that I found a solution to my covetousness and scorn and realized that both emanate from the shrine I set up around my past experiences.

It seems the trick to avoid scorn is to stay out of that shrine and, within the grace of my current blessings.

xoxo a.d. elliott


a.d. elliott is a wanderer, writer, and photographer currently living in Salem, Virginia. 

In addition to the travel writings at www.takethebackroads.com, you can also read her book reviews at www.riteoffancy.com and US military biographies at www.everydaypatriot.com

Her online photography gallery can be found at shop.takethebackroads.com


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