“Have you ever heard of a curmudgeon?” the customer asked. To me it sounded like the season’s latest flu virus – the curmudgeon influenza. “I believe your last customer is a curmudgeon,” he said. “He didn’t have a good word to say about anything.”

I had to agree with his observation. However, though I like to read almost more than I like to eat ice cream (which is saying a lot), his unusual word is one I had never come across. So, when I got home I pulled out my Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary and looked up his word. According to Webster a curmudgeon is “a crusty, ill-tempered, and usually old man.”

Yep, that describes the customer he was talking about. Fortunately, we don’t have many customers whose minds are so infected. Yet, what’s sad is that many in the world who are ill tempered and negative generally don’t realize it’s as a result of habits of thought. It’s also sad that, though we have a choice about the attitudes we carry into old age; too many choose by their attitudes to be old long before their time.

The good news is that when the attitudinal disease we have described is detected in the early stages, a full-blown case can be prevented or cured. Let’s look at two preventive measures.

The first thing one can do to prevent becoming a curmudgeon is to stop talking about how bad the world is. Since the first days of chewing tobacco, park benches and town squares old men have been chewing and spitting while telling one another that the world is going you know where in a hand basket. And, today, in various gathering places (like barbershops), such is still heard.

Every time someone says how bad things are, I’m tempted to ask, “Well, how are YOU doing in the midst of such?” Indeed, world conditions could certainly be a lot better. However, students of history know that they have certainly been a lot worse. Additionally, a person that knows much about the Civil War era knows the horrible condition of our country during that period.

So, all things considered, when we drive fine automobiles, eat well, live in nice homes and wear the best of clothes; it seems somewhat incongruous to talk of how bad things are.

Secondly, to avoid the curmudgeons, refuse to engage in self-pity. The P.L.O.M. (poor little old me) disposition is a sure sign that one needs an attitudinal checkup. At the onset, treatment might involve visiting a children’s hospital, a burn ward or a cancer facility.

Too often we don’t take time to truly count our blessings; and become somewhat like the little old lady (curmudgeon) who said she always felt bad, even on days when she felt good, for fear she would feel worse tomorrow. Being thankful for today is strong vaccine when it comes to treating self-pity and the hardening of the attitudes that is evident in curmudgeons.

BARBER-OSOPHY: Today’s curmudgeons are the negative, pessimistic, self-pitying cynics of yesterday.

Copyright 2004, Sumerlin Enterprises.

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Author's Bio: 

Terry L. Sumerlin, known as the Barber-osopher, is the author of "Barber-osophy," is a columnist for the San Antonio Business Journal and speaks nationally as a humorist/motivational speaker.