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Not Knowing When To Quit

Here’s another life lesson from my perspective – something that is challenging me to think and change my behavior.

I remember growing up my brother Matt and I would wrestle and fight like siblings do. It seemed more and more through the years that Matt never knew when to quit until he got hurt. It got so bad in our teen years that I would hurt him on purpose just to get him to quit. He’d get mad about the knot on his head but he’d quit. He still has a complex about it and still tries to pick a friendly fight with me once in a while. I just try to keep it friendly without reminding him too harshly that I’m still his big bad brother (even though he is a little larger than me now). This is just a comical example of what I’m talking about when I say – “not knowing when to quit”.

Being older I find I still run in to situations where it seems like people (myself included) don’t know when to quit. Maybe it’s the friend who always has a one-up on whatever story somebody is telling and they just don’t quit until they have the grandest story. That is usually funny to watch taking place to me, although it can be extremely annoying if there are two people like that in the same conversation. Maybe it is the person who is so competitive they go way over the top with how serious they play a board game – they just don’t know where to draw the line of ridiculous. I could probably make a long list of people who at various times and various scenarios don’t know when to quit, but instead I’ll keep it about me and examples of humor gone bad. Anyone who knows me knows I love a good laugh, but I think I’m re-learning some boundaries so I’ll know when to quit.

Since I was raised up a preachers kid it is easy for me to make fun of preachers and/or church, especially pentacostal, and I know there have been times when my making fun has been inappropriate (like around mine and Shawna’s dad’s – both pentacostal preachers, or around people who don’t have a clue what I’m joking about because they’ve never been exposed to pentacostal church). I’ve had to admit that I’ve gone too far and try not to cross that line any more. I might still slip up but I at least admit using discernment is necessary so I try and know when to quit. It’s probably easier for me to not know when to quit concerning this because of how I grew up – in pentacostal church.

Here’s another example of how people can go too far. I grew up in a family that doesn’t particularly like fat jokes (read in to that however you want I guess – we’re all a bit overweight ok – I said it). I would hear people make a fat joke and I would shrug it off and maybe even chuckle. They would continue with more fat jokes and I would begin to be annoyed – no longer laughing. If they didn’t know when to quit I would remind them the family I come from and let them know they don’t have to take it so far. To me this is an example of how most people like myself can be a good sport about something in moderation but it can go too far. If only they knew when to quit we could have gone without the awkward moments of me being annoyed and them feeling like I was booing them off a comedy stage.

I’ll put the monkey on my back one more time… For many years I offended people by going too far joking about mentally handicapped people. It was easy for me to joke about because at an early age I knew people at my dad’s churches who were mentally handicapped and all through my school years I always noticed the mentally handicapped kids and made humor (usually acting like I was mentally handicapped myself) just to get a laugh out of my friends. I would get dirty looks from people but I would just keep on joking. Why? I don’t know. Either because I didn’t care if I was annoying and offending people or because I cared more about getting a laugh out of my immature friends who were encouraging me to “do it again” referring to the little retarded act I did. Hind site is 20/20 though – there were people who actually avoided being around me until years later when I grew up and stopped acting like that.

Is it wrong for me to knowingly continue to annoy someone with something they find repulsive? How do we know where to draw those lines? Is it only where we draw the line of sin? How do we draw such a fine line for our humor in today’s culture without being legalistic? Where does the Bible really say anything about this kind of stuff. Should we just not give a rip what anybody else thinks or should we use at least some level of discernment and moderation?

As you can see – I’m guilty. I used to poke fun about my brother not knowing when to quit but I’ve done the same thing in more serious ways and crossed boundaries when it wasn’t necessary. The stories I’ve shared here are probably mild instances to say the least.

I don’t know a definitive answer to any of the questions and challenges. I’m trying to figure all this out myself. Tomorrow I’ll share what I’ve been reading in scripture.

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