I’m currently reading a little book by Deborah Smith Pegues which you will easily find in the town bookstores, like Pages for instance, near UBC. Smith Pegues is well known for authoring an earlier book entitled, ’30 days to Taming your Tongue.’
The books are a bit like D-I-Y instruction manuals for Christians, but really it could apply to anyone of any faith. The attitude book is simply called, ‘30 days to a great attitude.’ I know some may say, why read a book about that? Well because when we read about it, we discover so many hidden attitudes that we need to get rid of before they ruin our lives.
For example, there is something called a martyr attitude, and the definition for that is ‘sacrificing or suffering in order to arouse feelings of pity or guilt in others.’ How low can anyone get? But we have all done that at some stage or other of our lives. A person who sacrifices and then ‘derives satisfaction and self-esteem from the sympathy and attention it brings her’ is a false martyr. Her martyrdom is actually wasted and of no value because of her martyr attitude.
The book deals with a host of attitudes that are in play all around. One is the aloof attitude, a ‘standoffish, detached, impersonal, emotionally distant’ attitude. We have all seen it in operation, and its quite offensive. It is very negative social behaviour and many official persons do adopt it, perhaps as a kind of self-protective device. There is the angry attitude where people easily express hostility towards a group or person. There is the defensive attitude where a person always justifies his or her actions and avoids listening to criticism. The sarcastic attitude is ‘a tendency to use witty language to convey insults or scorn.’
The self-righteous attitude, which we Nagas have more than our fair share of, is described as ‘maintaining a sense of moral superiority; an exaggerated show of personal holiness.’ The book goes on to list many different attitudes which are all damaging to our character. Even things as unassuming as a mediocre attitude, which is an approach of mediocrity towards any work assigned to us, or a scarcity attitude which is apparently ‘belief in a limited supply of life’s resources,’ will, in the long run, affect us detrimentally. I bought this book because I had enjoyed the earlier volume about taming the tongue. I don’t regret getting the second book because it is just as eye-opening as the first book.
I think attitude is integrally important. The attitude with which you go through life determines your life for you. Parents pass on certain attitudes to their children and if their children do not have the wisdom to reject the wrong attitudes, they are ingrained in their personality and they direct their lives. How dangerous. Attitudes are learned. We are not born with them, thank God for that. So they can be unlearned. At fifteen years of age, my cousin and I perfected the art of sarcasm. We thought we were so smart when we could sarcastically cut one another down. It had to stop after some years, of course. Who wants to be friends with Ms Sarcastic?
I like the way Smith Pegues quotes her friend, Arbra Ezell: ‘Anger is a secondary emotion; you must identify the primary emotion that gave rise to it.’ She quoted this in connection to the chapter entitled An angry attitude. It can be applied to the whole concept of having a certain attitude. What was the seed? If we learn the answer to that, we can eject it. The book covers many other attitudes, as for example, defiance, condescending attitudes, elitist and racist attitudes, controlling, haughty, intolerant attitudes, and the inflexible, the grumpy, the fatalistic, the contentious, the apathetic, the sullen and the vindictive. We can easily find our type if we are to be honest.
So, why write a book about attitude? Because attitude is life-shaping. It makes you or breaks you. Are you going to pick yourself up after being dealt a blow by life? Or are you going to fall to pieces? It all depends on the kind of attitude you embrace. Attitude decides destinies. That is why writing a book about attitudes so readers can drop the wrong ones and grow the right ones, and come into their full destinies. It’s easy to carry, just the sort of reading material that comes in handy while waiting for traffic jams to disentangle. Makes waiting time highly valuable with the life lessons it offers.