I came across a post from some self-important schmo — “My Social Media Doctrine” — that’s a perfect indication of the extent to which the rampancy of COTUS (Center of the Universe Syndrome) is fast approaching epidemic status. The post and the schmo reminded me that humility and personal choices have been replaced by narcissism and behavioral pronouncements, always directed at others, always intended to keep ourselves from being inconvenienced in any way, and always meant to keep our oh-so-thin skin from being bruised.

The post and the schmo also reminded me of one of the least used words in the language: No.

Life is a series of tests. We’re constantly subjected to tests of our patience, of our judgement, of our intelligence, of our skills and our talents, of our resourcefulness and our accomplishments. Tests are omni-present. Period. But there are some tests to which we can just say, “No.”

Regardless of our ages, our experiences, or our successes — and for as many times as we may have been tested — we have to retain our perspectives and our modesty. But there does remain a difference between right and wrong. If a test comprises the potential for our doing wrong, or being done wrong to, we can just say, “No.”

And we retain the right and the power to make choices. We choose our friends. So can we choose our associates. We choose the integrity with which we conduct ourselves. So can we choose to disassociate ourselves from those who don’t share, appreciate, or reciprocate that integrity. Faced with unfavorable choices in undesirable circumstances, we can just say, “No.”

Is saying “No” harsh? No. In fact, it may be warranted and considerate. As Dr. Benjamin Spock pointed out so long ago in his famous book, as children, from the youngest age, we crave the knowledge of our limitations: We need to know the boundaries of appropriateness and the points at which reining is appropriate. What we have to remember, then, as adults, is that we can determine those boundaries for ourselves — and keep them to ourselves. When lines need to be drawn, we can just say, “No.”

One of Grandpa O’Brien’s favorite expressions was this: “Charity begins at home.” I hope my friend the schmo will take Grandpa’s advice and choose his personal and professional connections as he wishes. At the same time, I hope he stops thinking anyone gives a damn about his wishes.

Just say no, Dude.

Image courtesy of pixshark.com.