The How-To Book and the Self-Help mangle.

It is a core belief of Bible belt spunk that “God helps those who help themselves.”  However, in the current age of increased information, instant access, and excessive specialization, we’ve reached limits to what we can reasonably know or do.  Sometimes, people come to a point at which they don’t really know how to help themselves.  We have begun to live in some sort of wash between consulting expert opinions and not knowing ourselves, a gap that has been marketed to with increasing success.  Don’t know how to balance your life and career?  Get a book.  Feeling stressed or depressed?  Get a book?  Feeling too busy?  Surely you have time to read another book!  Better yet, get a life coach.

But are all instructional materials questionable?  Is that home-bathroom-remodeling book actually bad? And what about every single instruction book ever written ‘for dummies’?  I’m a dummy – I might need one of those some day.  A case in point – this little article about how not to put your foot in your mouth.

I am a champion foot swallower.  From the time I told my friend that her new dye job looked like chunks of Kool Aid, to the time I told my boyfriend’s co-worker I would love to find her less bitchy friends, I’ve always exhibited an extreme understanding of how to jam the whole foot in.  It’s just my nature.  In particular with those people I actually like, I get increasingly harsh.  And dumb.

But reading about what I do wrong or even how I could be a better person isn’t really going to help me change the pattern of my habits, which are naturally hard to break.  What I’d really like is a little more understanding.  Yes, I can be idiotic at times.  And yes, I don’t always have all the answers.  But there is a real disconnect for all of us between the crutches we use to interact with others, and the advice we sometimes need to hear from those around us.  Perhaps once we can listen a little better, wee won’t need to read so much.

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