3 C’s and 1 S

May 18, 2011 | 31 comments
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When I arrived in Japan as a missionary, my trainer was Elder Wynder. The most important thing he taught me was the “Three C’s”. Maybe the rest of you learned these as kids (it seems like the kind of thing you’d hear in Primary), but I’d never heard them before.

  • Don’t Complain
  • Don’t Compare
  • Don’t Criticize

I made them my personal creed as a missionary, though I haven’t always lived up to them. They’ve covered a lot of ground for me. Of course, they’re not 100% all-the-time commandments. Sometimes there are problems that really need to be complained about in order to fix them. Sometimes comparison helps us discover what we can be. And criticism…well, maybe there’s never a good reason to criticize.

My own contribution to the list is my “One S”:

  • Avoid Sarcasm

Sarcasm is the unblockable attack. When someone hurts you with sarcasm, getting defensive just makes you look wimpy and hypersensitive (and they can always respond with, “Hey, it was just a joke. Lighten up.”)

Were you taught the “Three C’s” growing up? And what would you add to (or remove from) the list?

31 Responses to 3 C’s and 1 S

  1. Dan on May 18, 2011 at 11:20 am

    in a world full of insanity, sarcasm is your window to fresh air.

  2. Ardis E. Parshall on May 18, 2011 at 11:24 am

    Well, that’s just dandy, Dane! Bring in the 3 C’s and shut down the Bloggernacle, why doncha?!

    I think my mother tried to teach me the 3 C’s without calling them that. Clearly they haven’t taken yet, but don’t give up on me. In the past few years her lessons about making my bed and washing behind my ears have started to click, so maybe I’ll eventually catch up to her manners, too.

    Sarcasm really does shut down any communication (well, unless it’s directed at oneself or can in no way be taken seriously, as I hope is the case with my first paragraph). I finally had to end a very important personal friendship with a colleague because of sarcasm. I could take the difference in religious belief, the difference in what constituted adequate historical evidence, all of that, but I couldn’t take the constant barrage of sarcasm directed toward me, the church, and mutual friends with whom he disagreed professionally. As you say, there was no defense — the comeback was always “can’t you take a joke?” and the only alternatives, asking candidly for a cessation of the sarcasm and not responding to do, didn’t work. Sarcasm kills.

    If only I could always remember that before I fall into it myself …

  3. Sonny on May 18, 2011 at 11:39 am

    I have personally pulled way back on my use of sarcasm lately, unless I can clearly feel that I am using it as Ardis described above (where it can no way be taken seriously). Then I think it can be a wonderful smile-maker.

    I used to hear so much sarcasm, particularly political, on the airwaves that it just started to turn my stomach.

  4. Jax on May 18, 2011 at 11:50 am

    One of my favorite part of my interrogation training (besides the waterboarding) was an option training on “conversational terrorism” – how to command or control any conversation, and if necessary to cripple it. I’d have to go back through the materials, but there were about 6 different ways it described that sarcasm could be used. I think all but one were used to cripple the conversation completely so that you could steer it off into a more productive path.

    Sarcasm is good for humor, but terrible for trying to enhance communication especially online when tone and body language are absent. Example: did you catch my sarcasm above?

  5. Paul on May 18, 2011 at 11:56 am

    Your three C’s are great. I see a refrigerator poster in our family’s future…

    I had one missionary companion in particular with whom I had a very sarcastic relationship. In our effort to inject some levity into our otherwise quite serious relationship we fell to sarcasm, and within weeks it had a devastating result. Thankfully we were only together a couple of months; it was one of my most difficult companionships.

    There is a vast difference between sarcasm and self-deprecating humor. The first tends toward passive agressive control. The second admits humility and invites a gentler approach.

  6. jks on May 18, 2011 at 12:10 pm

    There is such a thing as fun, lighthearted sarcasm. Definitely different than mean sarcasm.
    In our family we say “You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.” No complaining allowed.

  7. Wraith of Blake on May 18, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    I think any additions should also be “C’s.” For example, “Don’t be sarcastic” could perhaps be phrased “Don’t be cute (meaning sarcastic).”

  8. Dane Laverty on May 18, 2011 at 1:23 pm

    Does “cute” mean “sarcastic”? I’m not familiar with that usage. I’m all for people being cute.

  9. Martin on May 18, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    Ardis nailed it with her first line. I think the three Cs and S are like spices — a dash here and there makes things tasty. But sometimes the bloggernacle serves up a basil, cilantro, and parsley salad and offers salt and pepper on the side.

  10. Wraith of Blake on May 18, 2011 at 1:45 pm

    It’s true you’d not want to disparage something in most contexts positive. “Don’t be clever”?–no no no you’d want people to be smart. “Cheeky”?, too english (meaning brit). “/C/uttingly tongue-in-/c/heek”?

  11. Dane Laverty on May 18, 2011 at 1:56 pm

    Or you could just change it to “Don’t be Czarcastic” ;)

  12. Shannon on May 18, 2011 at 2:02 pm

    I have a suggestion for a sarcasm “c” — “contempt,” which is really much worse, and is what I remember from a relationship book I read once. The author said he could tell which partners were going to make it based on how (not if) they argued. Those who showed contempt were in trouble, and I believe it.

  13. Jacob M on May 18, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    So I went on a date with this girl one time, and the entire time was a sarcasm fest. We both dished it out, and we both took it with smiles on our faces. Three days later she dumped me over the phone, saying that when she was with me, she was too sarcastic. I’m still kind of pissed over that one. I would say that the lesson learned is to avoid sarcasm, except that in the moment, we had a wonderful time. I’m not sure where this leaves me in these rules.

  14. Gdub on May 18, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    I’ve been told by those familiar, that President Hinckley used to repeat the old saying, “sarcasm is the recourse of a weak mind”. I’ve never been able to find him actually saying it, but this, from a talk given at BYU in 1974, offers some insight into his feelings on the matter, which are similar to my own:

    I come this morning with a plea that we stop seeking out the storms and enjoy more fully the sunlight. I am suggesting that we “accentuate the positive.” I am asking that we look a little deeper for the good, that we still our voices of insult and sarcasm, that we more generously compliment virtue and effort. I am not asking that all criticism be silenced. Growth comes of correction. Strength comes of repentance. Wise is the man who can acknowledge mistakes pointed out by others and change his course. I am not suggesting that our conversation be all honey and blossoms. Clever expression that is sincere and honest is a skill to be sought and cultivated.

    What I am suggesting and asking is that we turn from the negativism that so permeates our society and look for the remarkable good in the land and times in which we live, that we speak of one another’s virtues more than we speak of one another’s faults, that optimism replace pessimism, that our faith exceed our fears….

    The work of the Lord is a work of glorious and certain reward. I do not suggest that you simply put on rose-colored glasses to make the world look rosy. I ask, rather, that you look above and beyond the negative, the critical, the cynical, the doubtful, to the positive.”

  15. Wraith of Blake on May 18, 2011 at 2:05 pm

    heheh I love it!

    (Merriam-Webster: cute \?kyüt\ adj. cut·er; cut·est [short for acute, ca. 1731] (1.a) clever or shrewd often in an underhanded manner (1.b) impertinent, smart-alecky: “don’t get cute with me” (2) attractive or pretty especially in a childish, youthful, or delicate way (3) obviously straining for effect — cute·ly, adv. — cute·ness, noun)

  16. Gdub on May 18, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    As for additional rule, I would add another “C”, for competition. I know it may seem controversial, but for me I cannot act in competition and avoid the pitfalls of pride. In my experience, the spirit of competition exists in-parallel with placing my trust in the arm of flesh and not trusting in the Lord. Plus, competition is distracting. When goals shift from quality toward winning, compromises become inevitable.

  17. JamesM on May 18, 2011 at 3:38 pm

    Martin #9

    See, there you go again…criticizing and complaining about the ‘nacle!

  18. Catania on May 18, 2011 at 4:16 pm

    I agree on competition being in there, too. I can get competitive, and I see that when I do, I’m my worst version of myself.

    Of course, being competitive is similar to comparing. So maybe you don’t need to add anything.

    Also – I would suggest a “Do” – be grateful. It’s hard to criticize, complain, or compare when we’re being grateful instead.

  19. Gdub on May 18, 2011 at 4:35 pm

    @Catania #18,

    That is a wonderful point. I recall a leader discussing how he’d been trying to stop back-biting and build unity by quelling negativity. He soon discovered he was more busy putting out fires than actually improving things. He finally realized the problem and taught, “we often tell people, ‘if you can’t say anything nice, say nothing at all’, but that only makes a bunch of silent angry people; it never actually changes how you feel.”

    It’s a lot easier to do good things than stop doing the bad.

    I’ll spare commenters any more reading, but I’ve actually got a blog post about it over at You Should Be.

  20. Dane Laverty on May 18, 2011 at 5:21 pm

    Good points, Catania and Gdub. I think Pres. Hickley’s six (or nine?) “B’s” are the positive counterpoint to this. If you’re doing the B’s, then you won’t have time for the C’s.

  21. Wraith of Blake on May 18, 2011 at 6:33 pm

    Btw my LOLZ @ #15 were at czar-castic @ #11. Whose legit etymology is sarkos, “flesh,” for sarkasmos, “to flay.”

    And what would be a good folk etymology for ksarcasm? How about ksar as a alternate street pronunciation of scar (e/g as aks is for ask?)? Then, in a type of street rhyming slang (such as fo’ sizzle, my nizzle, meaning “for sure, my man”), ksarcasm would derive from scar kissom: “a scar occasioned among kith and kin.”

    Ah but all of that is simply too craaazy. Since, of course, its meaning can be much more succinctly rendered: No CRACKS. Thus, four C’s.

    No CARPS (carping). No COMPARES (c’pares: comparisons). No CRAPS (crappings-on). No CRACKS (sarcasm).

  22. Wraith of Blake on May 18, 2011 at 6:52 pm

    Or four K’s. No kvetchings. No tally keepings. No knocks. No verbally keen contratemps.

  23. Dane Laverty on May 18, 2011 at 7:27 pm

    WoB, I just finally realized that your moniker is WraIth of Blake and not Wrath of Blake (which I took as an allusion to the “Wrath of God” card from M:TG). Tell you the truth, I kind of liked imagining you as the personification of Blake’s anger, like Urizen or something.

  24. Matt Evans on May 18, 2011 at 9:08 pm

    Great ideas. I realized several years ago that my family growing up used lots of sarcasm, and that I sometimes hurt people I care about with it. This thread increases my motivation to abandon it for good.

  25. Cameron N. on May 18, 2011 at 9:20 pm

    I remember my only American companion on my mission, he was sarcastic all the time and it was hard for me to tell when he wasn’t being sarcastic. Once he made a negative comment about the mission president’s wife and it was undetectable so I disagreed, then he said he was being sarcastic and got annoyed. I rarely felt comfortable with him since I didn’t feel I always knew what he meant.

  26. Wraith of Blake on May 19, 2011 at 5:49 am

    Dane:

    Yeah, I think that’s better than Wraith. Maybe I’ll change to that.

    __ __ __

    I keep messing with mnemonics:

    __ Revamped 4 C’s __

    Cut (insecure-) Comparisons

    Cut (oft-) Complaints

    Cut (malicious) Critiques

    Cut (arch) cleverness

    __ __ __

    __ “C-R-A-S-S – LESSNESS” means— __

    - No CRACKS! (cracking jokes at others’ expense)

    - No CRANKS! (tendencies for crankiness)

    - No CRAPS! (piling on harsh criticism)

    - No CRAVES (resent about anothers’ good lot–their positive treatment, recognized abilities, etc.–or resent about any lack of recognition of our own exceptionalism

    __ __ __

    __ Four Q’s __

    __ Q. __ Quit equivalency quibbling

    __ U. __ Quit questionable querulousness

    __ I. __ Quit quisling critique

    __ T. __ Quit burlesque piquancy

  27. WillF on May 19, 2011 at 7:50 am

    [sarcasm]First of all, I hate lists. Do we need another list?
    Second, this seems a lot like all of the other lists we are given.
    Thirdly, why be so negative? Try and form it as Do’s instead of don’ts.

    There, I broke all three. [/sarcasm]

  28. WillF on May 19, 2011 at 7:54 am

    Do I get a prize?! (There, broke the fourth. Now I feel like crap.)

  29. Dovie on May 19, 2011 at 11:51 am

    Ccokies, cakes, croissants, and strudel.

  30. Alison Moore Smith on May 19, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    This list is beyond possibility for me. So I will choose to ignore it and let all of you go on your merry celestial ways whilst I wallow in my terrestrialness.

    P.S. I love you, WillF.

  31. Wraith of Blake on May 19, 2011 at 8:37 pm

    I really like aphorism. They are so much a part of the propogation and maintanence of wisdom throughout the ages, especially in pre-literate times–a misnomer; I should say “pre-writing”–but they are no-more less so, now, I don’t think. In reading Dane Laverty’s post and its thread, it sprang to mind that Rudyard Kipling’s “If–” suggests its aphorisms in a positive way. So I reverse engineered its statements to “Don’t do” form while maintaining a predilection for the letter C. Without further ado, here is–

    __ __ __

    “IF— ,” Rudyard Kipling (1895 [And with 21 Annotations])
    __ __ __

    i. [Don't counteract one's fellows' behavior in such a manner as to cop out to important duties at hand.]

    If you can keep your head when all about you/Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;

    ii. [Don't be "controlled" by others' criticisms.]

    If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

    iii. [But don't completely contravene their substance, either.]

    But make allowance for their doubting too:

    iv. [Don't chafe at completing compellingly central commitments even when their consummations seems hard to catch.]

    If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

    v. [Don't carry on in cageyness even to counter calumniation.]

    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

    vi. [Per Shannon's No. 12: Don't convey contempt even toward the conteptuous.]

    Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,

    vii. [Don't be so cocky or else let communications get controlled by self-regard.]

    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

    viii. [Certainly don't constrain the creative imagination.]

    If you can dream—

    ix. [But then don't carelessly--and too carefree-ly--cling to the same, either.]

    and not make dreams your master;

    x. [Also don't constrain one's cognitions.]

    If you can think—

    xi. [Still, make these same as capable as possible (oops; that is stated positively) and don't confine these same only to those that are but clever games.]

    and not make thoughts your aim,

    xii. [Don't be controlled by others' regard.]

    If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster/And treat those two impostors just the same:

    xiii. [Don't candidly combat cheats or else--"feed trolls."]

    If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken/Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,/Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,/And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools;

    xiv. [Don't complain about the changes characteristic of chance.]

    If you can make one heap of all your winnings/And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
    And lose, and start again at your beginnings/And never breathe a word about your loss:

    xv. [Don't cower with regard to crucial callings close-by.]

    If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew/To serve your turn long after they are gone,/And so hold on when there is nothing in you/Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

    xvi. [Don't be crass--to get chummy that cheaply.]

    If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

    xv. [Don't be so constrained by caution as to have eyes forever cast down or else be subservently crawling.]

    Or walk with Kings—

    xvi. [Or, by opposite token, don't come to be a condescending creep, either.]

    nor lose the common touch,

    xvii. [Don't let any concern for others' contentment cripple or crush oneself, leaving oneself crestfallen, chagrined.]

    If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

    xviii. [Don't close off from others--don't cocoon.]

    If all men count with you,

    xix. [But don't too-"contrivedly" court favor, either.]

    but none too much:

    xx. [ Don't cycle the clock on the couch or in coffee breaks more than chores.]

    If you can fill the unforgiving minute/With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,

    xxi. [The condusive contagion for these conceptions will contribute more than chump change.]

    Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,/And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!