Once I saw this guy on a bridge about to jump. I said, “Don’t do it!” He said, “Nobody loves me.” I said, “God loves you. Do you believe in God?”
He said, “Yes.” I said, “Are you a Christian or a Jew?” He said, “A Christian.” I said, “Me, too! Protestant or Catholic?” He said, “Protestant.” I said, “Me, too! What denomination?” He said, “Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?” He said, “Northern Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?”
He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region, or Northern Conservative Baptist Eastern Region?” He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region.” I said, “Me, too!”
Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879, or Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?” He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912.”
I said, “Die, heretic!” And I pushed him over.
Thomas Jefferson, asked to write the declaration of the United States’ independence for the Continental Congress, sat down with pen and ink and went to work on a draft. The draft has been preserved, allowing a glimpse of Jefferson the writer at work. Penning the memorable words of the declaration, Jefferson did the work of all good writers – the work of editing, of returning to his language, narrowing and sharpening it. Langguth writes:
‘We hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable,’ he wrote…Jefferson struck out ‘sacred and undeniable’ and wrote in ‘self-evident’. He continued through his draft, paring words away to make his language bolder. From ‘that all men are created equal and independent’ he dropped ‘and independent’. ‘Rights inherent and inalienable’ became ‘unalienable rights’. His next phrase came straight from his pen and could not be improved. Jefferson struck off those rights as ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’.
In Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink, he discusses the work of psychologist John Gottman. Gottman began researching marriage, seeing if he could pinpoint the factors that lead to the ultimate demise of a marriage. Gladwell writes (32):
He [Gottman] has found that he can find out much of what he needs to know just by focusing on what he calls the Four Horsemen: defensiveness, stonewalling, criticism, and contempt. Even within the Four Horsemen, in fact, there is one emotion that he considers the most important of all: contempt. If Gottman observes one or both partners in a marriage showing contempt toward the other, he considers it the single most important sign that the marriage is in trouble.
“You would think that criticism would be the worst,” Gottman says, “because criticism is a global condemnation of a person’s character. Yet contempt is qualitatively different from criticism. With criticism I might say to my wife, ‘You never listen, you are really selfish and insensitive.’ Well, she’s going to respond defensively to that. That’s not very good for our problem solving and interaction. But if I speak from a superior plane, that’s far more damaging, and contempt is any statement made from a higher level. A lot of time it’s an insult: ‘You are a bitch. You’re scum.'”
Gottman has found, in fact, that the presence of contempt in a marriage can even predict such things as how many colds a husband or a wife gets; in other words, having someone you love express contempt toward you is so stressful that it begins to affect the functioning of your immune system. “Contempt is closely related to disgust, and what disgust and contempt are about is completely rejecting and excluding someone from the community…”