I’ve been told this.
At many times and in various ways.
“I don’t care if I ever talk to you again!”
“Get out of here, you jerk!”
(That one was accompanied by a literal kick to the rear. I deserved it. Richly.)
Those are the most notable “gits” in my memory.
Uttered by people I had known and for reasons I fully grasped.
I really did deserve them!
Yesterday it was “Git!” with an angry thumb emphatically pointed behind. This time from a total stranger. In a sanctuary. For reasons unbeknownst to me. I thought they were words in jest at first, so I laughed.
Clearly, this didn’t help.
The repeated, “No, not ‘haha’, GIT!” left little doubt of that – even for me.
Since this was that brief “turn and greet someone” moment in church, I knew that wasn’t the time or place to plumb the whys, so I bowed and said, “Happily, sir” and then proceeded to embrace everyone around him.
First lesson in the fine art of being snubbed:
Take the hugs, leave the snubs.
Or, to put it another way, don’t get sucked into the black hole of “the Student from Hell.” Parker Palmer relates the tale of “the Student from Hell” in what has been for me a highly shaping read – The Courage to Teach:
I had just finished a two-day faculty workshop on a Midwestern university campus. Amid high praise for the work we had done together—which, I was told, had given people deeper insight into the pedagogical arts—I was ushered into a political science class where I had agreed to be “teacher for an hour.”
I should have left while the leaving was good.
There were thirty students in that classroom. It is possible that twenty-nine of them were ready to learn, but I will never know. For in the back row, in the far corner, slouched the specter called the Student from Hell.
The Student from Hell is a universal archetype that can take male or female form; mine happened to be male. His cap was pulled down over his eyes so that I could not tell whether they were open or shut. His notebooks and writing instruments were nowhere to be seen. It was a fine spring day, but his jacket was buttoned tight, signifying readiness to bolt at any moment.
What I remember most vividly is his posture. Though he sat in one of those sadistic classroom chairs with a rigidly attached desk, he had achieved a position that I know to be anatomically impossible: despite the interposed desk, his body was parallel to the floor. Seeking desperately to find even one redeeming feature in the specter before me, I seized on the idea that he must practice the discipline of hatha yoga to be able to distort his body so completely.
At that point in my life, I had been teaching for twenty-five years. Yet faced with the Student from Hell, I committed the most basic mistake of the greenest neophyte: I became totally obsessed with him, and everyone else in the room disappeared from my screen.
For a long and anguished hour I aimed everything I had at this young man, trying desperately to awaken him from his dogmatic slumbers, but the harder I tried, the more he seemed to recede. Meanwhile, the other students became ciphers as my obsession with the Student from Hell made me oblivious to their needs. I learned that day what a black hole is: a place where the gravity is so intense that all traces of light disappear.
I first encountered this story nearly two decades ago, and it has been affixed to my soul ever since. Snubs can so easily – and quickly – work their way into our skin, turning us sour and sullen like King Ahab obsessed with the one piece of ground he can’t have. What an essential skill of life not to get sucked into the black hole of the snub, the rejection, the averted glance, the Facebook unfriending, or the mere lack of likes on our latest brilliant, witty, observant post.
We can be surrounded by multiple encounters with life and light, but we can’t see past the black hole of that snub.
You have better things to do…