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Beware the Self-Description June 11, 2010

Posted by Mary W. Matthews in Random Observations.
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“Never trust a man who says ‘Trust me,'” Blaze Starr’s mother warned the girl before she left home, and how right mother was. (Later in the movie, Blaze asks her lover whether she can trust him, and he straightforwardly replies, “Hell, no!” Which is when she begins to trust him.)

I would go further, however: Never believe any statement that contains a self-description, whether overt (“I’m trustworthy”) or implicit. For example,

  • “Trust me, I know what I’m doing.” Yeah, like the Three Stooges knew what they were doing.
  • “Trust me / Believe me / I would never lie to you.” Everything I just said or am about to say is a total lie!
  • “I never read other people’s mail.” Hide any documents you want to keep to yourself.
  • “I am a maverick.” I never thought of myself as a maverick. I just wanted to be President.
  • “I’ll pay you back.” Unless you got a valid contract in writing, kiss your money goodbye now.
  • “I’m a compassionate conservative.” I’m compassionate to the wealthy and to big corporations, but if you make less than $100,000 a year, frak you.
  • “I’m as brave as a lion.” If the lion is Bert Lahr, that is.
  • “I am very easy to get along with.” I have an ego the size of Texas.
  • “You want proof? I’m insulted!” There is no proof.
  • “Some of my best friends are [black / hispanic / gay / Muslim / liberal / women / whatever].” I hate [whatevers].
  • “I am [tolerant / open-minded / liberal / whatever].” I am the opposite of [whatever].
  • “I love the U.S. Constitution.” Except for the many parts I want to repeal, amend, or ignore.
  • “I love freedom.” Except yours. I hate YOUR freedom. Especially if you’re a woman who has the gall to think she deserves the right to control her own body.
  • “I think we ought to ‘teach the controversy.’ ” There is no controversy, only the facts and my opinion. I think we ought to teach public-school students that my religion’s dogma is as worthy as the facts it contradicts.

My theory is that statements like the samples above come because the speaker is reassuring him/herself — lying to him/herself. I don’t think Nelson Mandela feels the need to assure his acquaintances, “I am a saintly old man.” I don’t think Audie Murphy needed to boast to his friends about how brave he was.

If you genuinely ARE “trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent” — well, first, I want to meet you! But seriously, I think a genuinely trustworthy person feels no need to run around saying, “I’m trustworthy,” any more than I feel the need to run around saying, “I have brown eyes.”

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