We all have that friend—you know the one that just goes and takes things too far. Everything is swimming along, fine as fine can be, and then this person goes and takes it to a place that is uncomfortable for everyone, a naked belly-flop in an otherwise lazy river. Cringe-worthy silences follow this person like a shadow.
In college, my too-far friend was named Pat. I remember no fewer than a dozen times that Pat silenced a classroom, a gym, or a dorm room with some inappropriate remark. One of my favorite Pat-ism came after a big Algebra midterm. The midterm was a big deal because it accounted for a large portion of our grade in the course, and I had spent dutiful hours preparing for said midterm by sitting in the back of the classroom and drawing comics with Pat while Mrs. Hively droned on about functions and . . . well, doesn’t it say it all that I can’t think of a single other algebraic term?
We took the test—the parts we could at least. And then a group of us, returned to my dorm room to gripe about the test and our pregnant teacher Mrs. Hively.
“None of that stuff was even on the study guide,” a short, square guy named Mike fumed.
“I want to be cop, when are quadratic equation ever gonna help me with that?” said fat Zim.
“I hope her baby is ugly,” Pat said, testing the waters.
“Yeah, she deserves it,” said Sam. Pat grinned that his comment had been okay with everyone. And the gripes kept coming about Mrs. Hively, Algebra, the school, life, everything:
What a waste of time!
Do you think she may actually be some sort of robot?
Math is so freakin’ dumb!
Mrs. Hively sucks.
I can’t believe someone actually married her, much less had a kid with her!
The comments were gaining an edge and rattling off quicker and quicker. Pat squirmed to the corner of his bed and cleared his throat.
“We should kill her,” he said matter-of-factly.
No one moved and silence hung heavy.
“You know, we should just kill her!” he said again with a jolly laugh, grinning and hoping someone would hop aboard his new train of complaint.
No one did. In fact, the opposite happened.
“Man, I don’t know about that,” said fat Zim, his sense of justice awakened.
“Yeah, man, Mrs. Hively writes a hard test, but she’s not so bad,” I offered.
“She’s actually a pretty sweet lady,” Mike concluded.
Pat sat confused at how things had turned so quickly, and was forced to abandon any notion he had of murdering his pregnant Math teacher.
Pat tended to take things too far, and every peer group or family has a member like this—the one who wants to take the curve at 90 or who thinks one more round of shots a good idea; the one whose filter is permanently turned off. If you can’t think of who this is in your gaggle of acquaintances, there is a decent chance it is you (and you may need help).
Going too far is seldom a good thing. It leads to social awkwardness, increased risk, and hypothetical teacher abuse/murder. I’m glad that I am not one who tends to slingshot into this realm of communication or thought. No, I fall in with the vast majority of us, who tend to see the line, know the line, and stand well back from it.
Hurling over that line in full belly-flopping grandiose is not desirable. But perhaps worse than going too far, is never going far enough. Fearful of nearing that invisible line, I stand well back, very still and very safe. I see potential conflict, and I run the other way. Picking a side would be great, but for comfort-sake I sit atop a fence, without ever considering that the top of the fence is no real place at all. One cannot live there—he or she must, at some point, come down on one side or the other. But nope, I perch up there for dear life, duping myself into believing it is the right, just place to be.
I don’t want to be like Pat, don’t get me wrong here. I want to be gracious and tactful with my speech and with my life. But I also don’t want to never live for the sake of living “politely” or euphemize my way into calling cowardice mere “kindness”—because they are not the same thing; not even close.
I suppose what I’m getting at is that it is neither right nor good to wish death upon your Math teacher. But neither is it right nor good to sit at the back of the world’s classroom, smiling and staying out of it; carefully apathetic, and peaceably useless.
(Verses to consider: Colossians 3:17, Galatians 6:9, Hebrews 10:24, 1 Corinthians 16:13, Ephesians 6:11)