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Knowing better

Ronda Rich's picture

When Nix, the unpredictable, funniest kid in our family, was 4 years old, he found himself in some bit of trouble, though we’ve now all forgotten what it was. Only the punch line lingers in our minds.

“Nix, why did you do that?” his mama asked in her strictest tone.

The cotton-topped youngster spread his hands, palms up, his blue eyes wide at his predicament. “I don’t know. I know better but sometimes I just can’t help myself.”

See, Nix, at 4, summed up what the rest of us need to remember: Most of the time we know better than what we actually do. As Mama would say, “We cut off our noses to spite our faces.” If we all stop and think about it, many of our un-doings are our own doings.

But we just can’t help ourselves.

In my speaking contracts is a clause that says payment is due on the day of event and if not paid, there is a 10 percent penalty. It normally works beautifully and keeps me from having to chase money once the engagement is said and done.

A few years ago, a company didn’t pay on time which put that clause into play. The event I had done was a huge success so they had already engaged me for the following year. When they balked at the penalty, I insisted. They paid it but canceled the next engagement.

I wasn’t surprised. At the time we debated the clause, I knew there was a good chance it would cost me much more in the long run. I knew better but I didn’t do better. I just couldn’t help myself.

I’m thinking now about all of this because of a letter I received from a disgruntled reader who chastised me for encouraging a friend and offering prayer when she was going through a difficult time. The woman maintained that such offers were worthless and empty. Giving her money or food was the better solution.

The woman, who actually signed her name (most letters like this are anonymous), wrote that in the course of two year she, a pharmacist, had lost her job, marriage and home and was reduced to living out of her car. Words of encouragement and prayers meant nothing to her, she noted. She needed more.

I understand that. I wrote back and was glad I did because when her second note arrived, I read between the lines to see what truly had happened.

The woman is a pro at alienating folks. This is not a good trait to have in times when jobs are so hard to come by because if budget cuts come, the difficult folks, no matter how talented or smart, will be the ones who are released. Given the choice of keeping one of two employees, would you choose the nice one or the mean one?

I know someone who, literally, cannot get along with anyone. Wherever she goes, she cuts a wide swath of discontent and quarreling. She huffs and puffs that no one likes her and, as you might imagine, it’s everyone else’s fault, never hers. She’s the victim.

Whenever Claudette tells me a story of some kind of conflict that the woman’s in, I laugh and say, “There she goes again. Winning friends wherever she goes.”

I often say, “Does she not realize that the common denominator in all these disagreements is her?”

You would think that sooner or later, folks like this would realize they’re the masters of many of their own disasters, either by attitude or actions. You’d think they’d straighten up and take charge. You’d think.

We can all do better especially when we know better. Sometimes we have to overcome our natural inclinations and take control.

It’s so simple that even a child can figure it out. Why can’t we?

[Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of “What Southern Women (That Every Woman Should).” Visit www.rondarich.com to sign up for her free weekly newsletter.]


I have known the woman you refer to as "the disgruntled reader", since 1975. You are a misinformed, and NOT particularly well-read (if you're basing your ASSumption on what you "read between the lines")to consider yourself at all capable (or responsible) in your "reporting". I (and a very large group of others) have been in daily contact with your "disgruntled reader" for almost three years. You would do well, to make it a point to actually get to know this woman. She is snark personified, not because she's embittered, or ignorant, but because; she is brilliant (if not genius - we don't know yet, she's not been formerly tested - my money says she's an honorary MENSA member); well-informed (from her misbegotten position in life) because she makes it a point to BE so, in a country where most are embarrASSingly apathetic); tolerant in a manner befitting the very model of CHRIST (BTW, she's an atheist, and lives the basic fundamentals Christ would have us ALL live and be - noted to you only because, she's such the good sport about all us "Christians" (if I recall correctly, you tout that as well, yes?)busting chops about her claim, and being who/what she is); and has a relationship with her children, most PRAYING parents ask for. She doesn't panhandle, she isn't on the grift, she has worked odd jobs over the last two years WHILE LOOKING FOR EMPLOYMENT (oh, and GUESS WHAT?...she's been denied repeatedly because, she's been HONEST - she's either over-qualified, or "not acceptable" because she lives in her van). She is frank. She is honest. She is kind. You are pompous, misinformed, and pathetically condescending, while you read between the lines. Maybe it's time for an eye exam? Better yet, a good old-fashioned come to Jesus moment. Get out there and know what you're talking about, BEFORE you start flapping that mouth of yours. BTW, my name is Celeste. And I pray to be HALF the example of Christ your "disgruntled reader" is.

pandora's picture

Ms. Rich, I also take exception to your ignorant statements about a friend of 30 years. Many of us “know better” than to judge those whose circumstances we do not and cannot know.

Imagine doing all the right things – working to earn an advanced degree, maintain your home, raise a family, pay for insurance, etc. Now imagine being struck with a disability that makes you unable to work and being told your very real disability is one that is not covered by the long-term disability insurance you paid for. Add a poor economy, an honest nature, and a divorce, and you have a member of the new and much larger homeless class that is now part of America.

Your column last year about praying for your friend in trouble struck an understandable chord with this woman. I happen to agree with her assertion that prayer alone gives people the false comfort of helping when real action is what is needed. As recently as your column last week, you were merely wondering and hoping that the children from a home in foreclosure would be okay. At least you weren't judging them along with their parents.

The most ironic part of the column above is your assertion that this woman is a “pro at alienating people,” while you remain completely oblivious to the possibility that your trite pieces can have that same effect on readers experiencing real problems. Had you taken the time to engage my friend in intelligent debate, you might have learned something.

I suspect God prefers kind atheists to hateful, and ignorant, Christians. Maybe now you'll know better, bless your heart.

Dear Mrs. Rich, Great name, btw. I'm sorry, what exactly was your column of June 12th 2012, "Knowing better" about? Your child, who is funny, and the most prescient member of your family? Little chap quoting Paul already is he? You were bringing to our attention that you are available for paid speaking gigs? Bring the kid and we'll see. You were ridiculing one of your readers? You *are* in demand! In this day of budget slashing and evaporating newspaper readership, I would be thanking God for every pair of eyes that took the time to read my name, much less respond in writing to my work! In this brave new digital age, every click, every comment is a notch on our resumes, isn't it? You mention that you know someone named Claudette. Is that who wrote the letter? Do you personally know your fan letter's writer? I’m confused. OK, never mind.

According to John 9:1-3, Jesus noted that some misfortune can’t be blamed on an individual, but may illuminate a larger truth. Interestingly, later in this story, the religious leaders excoriate Jesus because he treats a sick man with mercy and love.

I recently went through a frightening time after college graduation, which included health challenges and underemployment. How glad I am my church sisters responded with money AND prayer. The money was unsolicited and offended my tetchy pride, but the love and yes, especially the prayers carried me through. As did the encouragement from my old FCHS friends, especially the one whom I knew understood what I was going through, since she was in the same leaky boat, a craft we kept afloat by reading about the rest of the world’s ills, and regaling each other with lots of cheerful black humor.

Not long after I finally got a “real” job, another schoolmate, a Christian man who has been dotting all the ‘I’s and crossing all the ‘T’s, was relieved of his finance position. Was it him or his parents’ sin that caused him to be born blind? I’m thrilled to say he’s found employment in his field since then, but in this global upset that is our economy, how many have not?

Obviously you send your child to a great Sunday School; perhaps you can sit in on his class. I hope you soon will be “Knowing better.”
P. S. While we are on the subject of “Knowing better,” could you enlighten me? This is a straight c/v from your column:
[Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of “What Southern Women (That Every Woman Should).”

I have followed several columns (about REAL southern women, and men) in the Citizen, and they have been informative and even touching. I trust that can happen in the future.
Jeannie Weller Cooper
Panama City, Florida

Wow. what a response. I enjoyed the column. Column -- not news article or advertisement. It's meant to be read as light entertainment, sometimes with an underlying message. Ms. Rich, I got your message. I, too, have one of these alienating friends and have seen this reaction before. And considering you picked on yourself as having the inclination to go too far at times, I fail to see how this column should have raised the ire of the previous responder(s). Perhaps the quote from Hamlet's mother does apply in her case.

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