Swimming Naked

Vicki Hinze. swimming naked


Swimming Naked 


Vicki Hinze


Civility itself is under attack, and since our society swims in its sea, we have to call the question to ourselves and on others:


Are you swimming naked?


Financial guru Warren Buffet once said, “Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked.”  That’s the core—the moment of truth when you discover whether or not you’re swimming naked, and whether or not others you interact with are, too.


Why does it matter?  Because it impacts the quality of your life.  Now and later. In all areas.


You know, it’s easy to be gracious and kind when others are being gracious and kind to you. But when others are venting their frustrations and dumping them on your head, when they’re being disrespectful, attacking you or your beliefs, or doing everything they can to shut you down, silence or oppress you, that swimming naked and the value of knowing who (including you) is also swimming naked becomes evident. It’s then that swimming becomes difficult. In all honesty, it’s during adverse times where only iron-willed self-discipline permits you to retain your self-respect and dignity. And simply respecting yourself can seem daunting if not nearly impossible. Though we must do it—for ourselves as well as our situation.


When things are sailing along, it’s easy to wear our public party faces. But when times get tough, the veneer comes off and raw emotions are exposed. That’s when a person’s true colors are revealed—that’s the tide going out and Buffet’s swimming naked.


Swimming naked reveals our own character and that of others. Our nature and theirs are revealed.  Whether we’re interacting with others or merely observing, we see the truth about character. If the emperor has no clothes, there’s no hiding it.


We need the truth. We might not want it, but always we need it. It’s senseless and insulting to sugarcoat our situation. We’re in perilous times. Not just physically and emotionally, though both are true, but spiritually. We’re teetering on the edge of losing civility, pushed to that edge by people determined to foster their own private agendas by exploiting vulnerabilities—real or perceived—to manipulate us. Their tools?  Shame, humiliation, making what’s wrong seem right and, worse, inevitable.  Oppression, deception, and, yes, even deliberate and intentional lies.  How they achieve their goals is by whatever means are necessary. Their objective is simple. At any costs, win.


Which means, of course, we lose. They do, too. That’s the tragic part of this. Behave this way and everyone ultimately loses. Let me get a little more specific.

Recently in the news there was a video clip of a bunch of Hispanic American kids flipping off, mooning, and F-bombing a group of people with whom they (or their parents, considering they were about nine years old) disagree. Not much to respect in their actions. But who is to blame?  The kids? Their parents? A society that doesn’t vehemently oppose this kind of behavior?


The kids, even at nine, know their behavior is unacceptable. They’ve had a couple years—four or five—of interacting with others beyond their families. Behave this way at school and you’re suspended. So they know what they are doing isn’t socially acceptable, but do it anyway.


Their parents, certainly share a lot of blame for fostering this kind of conduct.  If they didn’t foster it, it’s doubtful the kids would have been in place at the time this event happened. Rather than teaching their children to conduct themselves with respect and dignity, they permitted this unacceptable conduct. By permitting it, they encouraged it. By encouraging it, they foisted uncivil conduct on society. Now others too must endure their children’s unacceptable behavior (and explain to their kids why it’s unacceptable).


What about society?  Well, yes, it bears some blame, too. Condone it and you own it. But society does not bear the lion’s share of this lack of civility. The parents and kids themselves are responsible, and society should hold them accountable for failing to respectfully disagree.


My point is there’s plenty of blame to go around, but the bottom line is that these kids got these ideas somewhere. They got this type of behavior and the sense that it was acceptable somewhere. And they were too young for their parents not to be present and condoning it.


It’s possible the parents have also been manipulated. But as adults it is their duty to themselves and their children to provide a healthier, more productive and constructive environment for their children. As adults, it is their responsibility to not make themselves and their children society’s collective problem.


If you don’t see how this becomes a collective challenge, imagine that you were present as well.  With your child, who observes this public behavior. Now you must instruct, guide, direct, and insist that your child doesn’t engage in that behavior. You must un-teach what they’ve learned by observing these other kids and their parents. Children learn what they live. You’re working hard to raise your children so that they become self-respecting, respectful and civil adults. Your job just got a lot harder.


That’s just one of the risks of winning at any costs.


When these situations are blunt and obvious and in our faces before us, we oppose them. But if manipulated and nudged a bit here and there, a little at the time, each individual incident seems like such a small, innocuous thing. Not at all insidious. Yet these small things are insidious. Each nudge and little manipulation pulls another thread in the fabric of our society. Pull enough threads and you’ve got a hole. Before you know it, you’re stuck in a society that resembles Swiss cheese.


That makes it important to us to remember who we are and why we are who we are. To remember that others can only manipulate us to the extent that we allow ourselves to be manipulated.


Unfortunately, we’ve already let the self-serving manipulators do so far too much to fundamentally transform us. The PC police make that evident to any who are paying even the tiniest bit of attention. And yet all is not lost. This is a new day, and with each new day comes a new opportunity for us to make wiser choices—and I hope we will.


Let me give you a couple examples…


It was Memorial Day in the States. All over the nation, people paused to remember those who sacrificed for the whole of us, for all Americans.  A company I am well familiar with did a video of appreciation, an up close and personal encounter experienced by a man that was pertinent to the occasion, and promoted it on Twitter. Many retweeted it, finding merit in it. Respect. Honor. Dignity.


Before long, those who oppose the military began attacking the video and the company.  Others defended it. One of the chief complaints was that the company had nothing to do with the military. That, I happen to know, was inaccurate information because I’ve done business with this company for nearly forty years. It is all about providing services to members of the military and their families and it always has been.


As the day progressed, the criticism of the company and the military grew stronger and stronger. More inaccuracies, more negativity, and less gratitude and remembrance on this day set aside for the purpose of appreciation and remembrance.


Many opted to ignore the detractors. Many attempted to educate them, offering accurate information sources. Many added opposing fuel to the fire. The entire situation escalated into what some call a flame-war. I call it a self-indulgent mess made by those who had their facts wrong on the company, and are clueless about what goes into establishing and maintaining a republic where others have the right to say what they wish—even if they are uncivil, wrong, disrespectful and, yes, dishonorable in doing so.


That something meant to honor was twisted like this stayed on my mind the entire day and long into the night. Not just because it was in poor taste, though in my humble opinion the dispute was in poor taste, but because that kind of personal conduct shows an absence of civility and respect for truth and what the day was truly about. To the extent that lack of accuracy, truth, and respect for others’ sacrifices was condoned, it is owned. There is no such thing as a free lunch. We are each responsible for our actions.


When society deemed this kind of disrespect unacceptable, people exercised better judgment and refrained from displaying this kind of unverified, false information and disrespect. That’s worth thinking about. Reassessing. Are we a better or worse society for our absence of any restraint? Do we want to continue to be a better or worse society? Each of us should address and answer those questions for ourselves.


Too, before we express a view, we should remember that just because we have an opinion doesn’t mean we’re required to share it.  Some things are best left unsaid, especially those disparaging a person or entity, particularly when one hasn’t verified the truth.


Here’s another example. There was a news clip of a respected actor doing a commencement speech. In it, he dropped the F-bomb. The reaction?  Laughter. While the sentiment expressed had merit, the delivery could have benefited from a little more work and tact and a little less sensationalism.


Some in our society use the F-bomb so often that they don’t realize there are many among us who do not and who find it extremely offensive.  (Society is lectured on using the word “thug” or “terrorist” but not this.  Why?)


There were children in that commencement audience and students looking to this actor for inspiration. No doubt, the next time a five-year-old who was there drops the F-bomb, s/he will be punished… and this created more work for parents trying to raise children into civil adults.  And when the child drops that bomb, s/he will be wondering why no one is laughing like they did that day.  To the actor:  What a missed opportunity!  You had a remarkable chance to positively influence and wasted it on a cheap remark. 


Like it or not, we’re all role models. That’s the way it is, and as responsible adults, we need to be mindful of it.  Again, there was merit in the message, but the delivery failed. Why? The delivery resulted in the message being lost.  Let me explain…


A short time ago on the news, there was stiff opposition to the word “thug” being used to describe someone conducting themselves with text-book-description-accurate thuggish behavior. The outrage was deafening. But to the F-bomb being dropped in a public venue with small children present, there was… laughter.


Had that laughter been just by students, it would have been bad, but it actually was worse. It included professors and esteemed leaders from the school. That  is tragic. You can be honest with graduates about the hardships before them without sacrificing respect and dignity to do it. This commencement event was a significant occasion. One every student worked long and hard to achieve, full of symbolism and rites of passage. It, and they, the institution itself, deserved more respect.


One of the more unfortunate results is that this actor had some good things to say, but no one will hear or remember them. All that plays over and again on the news is the clip of the bleeped F-bomb. That’s predictable—sensationalism sells—but it’s also sad because all of the worthy things uttered won’t be heard. Like I said, a wonderful opportunity blown.


That’s what happens when you lose civility. When you lower the standards for what is and is not acceptable, civil behavior. The good in your message or actions is lost forever because you choose to throw away self-discipline and respect for one sensationalist moment. An inspired message falls forever to a five-second bleeped clip.  That’s tragic—and we all lose.


Civility isn’t about trying to be perfect. None of us are perfect. It’s about grasping the value of integrity and dignity and respect. For others, for institutions, for situations and events, and for one’s self.


In difficult times, when you’re hanging on by your fingernails, maintaining standards isn’t easy. It’s incredibly hard. But it is then when you most need them, and when you gauge your personal poise.  When it’s hard. When the tide’s out and you see who’s swimming naked—and what you see when you look at yourself.


Holding on takes work. Determination and restraint. It takes respect, and that definitely includes self-respect.


It’s easy to pop off some one-liner to dig at another person. It’s easy to snap back at someone being mean, nasty, or acting thuggish. It’s not easy to retain standards or dignity and grace in those circumstances but that is when you most need it, want it, and when your actions are most telling. Your true colors—your character—is about to be revealed. Think carefully before you speak or react.  Very carefully.


Because your baser instincts will be to counter-attack. But if you cut loose in those situations, they will be the very reactions you later most regret. You’ll see yourself on a video gone viral and be stunned, not recognize as yourself the person you appear to be. Others won’t believe it’s you—that you’d do what you did. You’ll regret that snippy post, that less than reverent uploaded photo. You’ll regret not listening more and talking less. Not listening and hearing. And you’ll regret it a long time. Maybe forever.


You’ll wish you’d remembered earlier that your right to express an opinion doesn’t require you to express it—particularly when you are uninformed on a topic and you’re just repeating words you’ve heard others say again and again.


Wisdom teaches hard lessons, and one of the hardest lessons is to think for yourself. Another is that context matters.


Repetition does not signal truth. It only signals repetition.


Shouting matches do not resolve issues. They just elevate tension so everyone’s fighting to speak and no one is listening.  Mimicking what others say isn’t thinking for yourself, it’s forfeiting the right and privilege of thinking for yourself.


Civil discussions where ideas are exchanged and all people are respected, that’s productive. It’s constructive and often enlightening. And those things—productive and constructive, enlightened discussion, respect for all, dignity in personal conduct—are the keys at the core of your true colors.  At the core of discovering whether or not you like what you see when you’re swimming naked.



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© 2016, Vicki Hinze. Vicki Hinze, The Marked Star PreviewVicki Hinze is the award-winning bestselling author of nearly thirty novels in a variety of genres including, suspense, mystery, thriller, and romantic or faith-affirming thrillers. Her latest releases are: The Marked Star and In Case of Emergency: What You Need to Know When I Can’t Tell You (nonfiction). She holds a MFA in Creative Writing and a Ph.D. in Philosophy, Theocentric Business and Ethics. Hinze’s website: www.vickihinze.com. Facebook. Books. Twitter. Contact. KNOW IT FIRST! Subscribe to Vicki’s Monthly Newsletter!  

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