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Stifling the Urge to Correct Others

“Convince, rebuke, exhort …” (2 Timothy 4:2).

Winston Churchill’s wife told him that loosing the election may turn out to be the best thing that could have happened.”

That statement from an online preacher’s magazine set off my inner alarm. The proper word is not “loosing,” but “losing.”

As an old high school English teacher, I know a little about these things. And I know that these things matter. (That is not to say I don’t slip up occasionally. I definitely do.)

However …

A couple of days ago, someone wrote to Smiley Anders’ column in our paper to bemoan the wrong placement of the word “only” in conversation and print. Someone may say, “There were five boys, but I only gave quarters to two of them.” See the problem? “Only” belongs before “two of them.” It should say, “There were five boys, but I gave quarters to only two of them.”

Two days later, Smiley says the language maven wrote a followup note to say that the very day her gripe ran in his column, the editorial cartoon violated the “only rule,” with that word in the wrong place.

And I’m thinking, “Get over this, lady. If you go through life correcting everyone’s English, you have taken on a thankless job and unachievable task.”

In a subsequent column, someone wrote Smiley about his spinster aunt who would red-pencil his thank-you notes to her, pointing out incorrect English or misspelled words.

Sheesh!

You may as well decide to correct all the errant drivers on the highway. No doubt many of us have thought of doing this from time to time.

We imagine pulling up to a red light alongside that driver, rolling down our window and getting his/her attention. Then, softly but firmly we point out a) “Hey buddy! That was a stop sign you just ran,” b) “You should use your turn signals,” or c) “Could I point out that was a school zone you just whizzed through at 40 mph?”

Not a good idea.

Let me state that more emphatically: It is never a good idea to try to teach another motorist anything.

The job is never-ending since the DMV keeps minting new drivers faster than you can correct the old ones. The task is thankless because no one appreciates being corrected for errors on the highway. But most importantly …

Correcting another driver can be harmful to your health. Even if you are nice.

You never know whether the driver is crazy, on drugs, a criminal or angry at his wife.

Do. Not. Do. This.

Some years back, a New Orleans man was driving with his grandson when the motorist in front of them suddenly threw on his brakes and turned into a convenience store parking lot, almost causing an accident. The grandfather, a rather congenial sort, decided it would be a public service to speak to the young driver. He pulled the car into the parking lot and walked over to the other car.

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Joe McKeever has been a preacher for nearly 60 years, a pastor for 42 years, and a cartoonist/writer for Christian publications all his adult life. He lives in Ridgeland, Mississippi.