May 3, 2018

Do not Cast Your Pearls Before Swine

Rudeness is a contagious behavior that spreads rapidly, and, as we all know, is rampant everywhere nowadays. Edmund Burke once said that, “Rudeness is the weak man’s imitation of strength.” Perhaps this suggests that, given the widespread diffusion of such contagious behaviors, weak people are the majority of humans. Be that as it may, however, well-mannered and kind people are becoming increasingly rare. At the same time, it must be said that, often, the ruder they are, the more demanding of other people’s time and attention they are. Clearly, they take too much for granted.

Fortunately, though, there are many antidotes to rudeness and oafish behavior, and I think I can say without fear of contradiction that I know some of them very well. One, and perhaps the most effective, is minimizing the contact opportunities with rude people. You have certainly heard the expression, “Do not cast your pearls before swine,” which is part of a famous Gospel passage (Matthew 7:6): “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast your pearls before the swine, lest haply they trample them under their feet, and turn and rend you.” (For a correct understanding of the metaphor, please note that the Jewish law regarded swine and wild dogs as unclean and unfit for close human contact, very likely because they were dirty, unkempt, lice-infested, and prone to attack or cause trouble).

Well, that’s not only a great Gospel passage, but also an inspirational piece of advice for everyday life. In fact, one of the possible meanings—in a lay sense—of the metaphor could be that we should not waste our time and energy on people who rebuff the rules of well-mannered behavior and live by the rules of the worst selfishness, self-aggrandizement, and callous disregard of others, including the manipulative use of others for one’s own ends. Of course, the Gospel doesn’t say that we have to despise the “dogs” and “swine”—those who don’t recognize something “holy” for what it is, and people who don’t show discretion, appreciation, or discernment—of the metaphor, and even less that we can treat them like garbage. Similarly, we must be patient and open-minded towards other people’s feelings and opinions, but at the same time, we must be firm on principles: all emotions are acceptable, not all behaviors are. Not everything is justifiable. This means that we have the right and duty to sanction bad conduct when it occurs. The above-mentioned sanction makes it so that we give the right message while protecting ourselves from an over-exposure to other people’s bad energy, so to speak. This is essentially a question of both ecology of mind and justice, inextricably intertwined with each other.

Of course, there are a lot of other “corrective actions,” but most of them seem to me to be either too extreme or too watered down, and far less effective than that above mentioned.