September 14, 2015

Fry Big Fish

The man who complains about the way the ball bounces is likely the one who dropped it.  
- Lou Holtz

I recently had an experience that caused me to scratch my head in utter disbelief. It was a small thing. A very small thing. A small thing that suddenly became a thing of monumental proportion. Work had been done - hard work and a lot of it. The end result was resplendent and far exceeded initial expectations. Moods were high and celebration was in full swing when someone decided to take offense at the most ludicrous, puny, and highly subjective thing. My jaw dropped in disbelief. This guppy in the ocean suddenly became a great white shark - not because it was a bad thing - but because of the fatal effect on morale that pointing it out caused. This was a very small fish yet someone decided to fry it anyway.

I struggle to understand why people waste their time looking for reasons to be dissatisfied? Do they feel it gives them an air of superiority to create issues where no issues exists? Are some people just inherently unhappy and desperately in need of the tiny morsel of attention they receive by pouring cold water on the good fortune or elated moods of others? Maybe it's the result of a life devoid of real problems or just having too much unoccupied time? 

 When you judge others, you do not define them, you define yourself.  - Earl Nightingale 

Being critical is only one of many optional response to a given situation. Having mercy, giving the benefit of the doubt, and even choosing to overlook some things are examples of other possible responses that leave us (and others) with a much more peaceful experience of the world. I'd like to understand it but honestly, it's a small fish and I'd rather hook a big one.

Just as frying a small fish leaves the fisherman as hungry as he was before, complaining offers no nourishment to body or soul and causes others to starve from withheld appreciation for well earned praise. Is that the point?

Some other examples of frying small fish include: knit picking, fault finding, criticizing, and gossiping. A complete list could fill several blog posts. 

Complaining isn't fishing. It's pointing at people who are fishing and declaring they're doing it all wrong. Sure, our hands don't get as dirty while complaining as when we're fishing, but complainers carry their own kind of stink. When we are busily engaged in working toward a worthy achievement we have a lot less time for small fish frying. 

Complaining and criticizing are attempts at diverting attention away from our own shortcomings using the "look over there" tactic - and often it works. Instead of being seen as a slacker we're seen as a complainer. When's the last time you cleared your calendar to spend time with a complainer? Me neither!

I know someone who believes SO strongly that toilet paper should be put on the roll with the paper coming off the front instead the back that they are offended when they encounter it WRONGLY positioned. Not only that, but they make it a point to FIX IT - even at other people's homes. This is a perfect example of frying a small fish. I look forward to the day that my life is so well ordered that I can fit this in as something to worry about.

If I could give any advice that may change the course of someone's life it would be to only fry BIG fish. Don't waste your time championing petty plights. If you have the passion to fight for something, make it something BIG. If you're going to go through all the trouble of dragging out the oil, and getting flour and grease all over your kitchen, ONLY FRY BIG FISH! Your life (and stomach) will be fuller. 

Photo Credit: Original Artwork by Sarah Kopp


  1. Hi Anita,
    I hope this finds you well? Couldn't have said it better myself ... except for the part about looking forward to the day. Imagine how boring and dissatisfying it must be!
    The challenge: even as I understand the roots of such complaints and nitpicking, I still struggle to let them go and not let them bother me. This summer, I was silenced by such behavior because family members were critical of what I was doing and writing.
    It hits me harder than I'd like, but I don't know how to process it any other way. It's a work in progress. :)

    1. Good to hear from you! I saw a quote that said people who trash your dreams do it because they've given up on their own. Sadly, I think that may be true. It is hard not to be kicked in the gut by criticism - especially when it comes from those we love and believe love us. When I find myself complaining, most often it has nothing to do with what I'm complaining about. It's usually misplaced frustration from some other area of my life where I feel I've lost control. Maybe it's the same for others too. If we can keep some of these things in mind it may help deflect some of the darts being hurled. It's never going to be fun though!

  2. Anita, I love this post, and how you connected it to frying fish. You are so right about people wanting to bring others down. I post on different writing forums to give myself exposure as an author, and it's unbelievable how many people are out there looking for an argument. Those types of people are the ones that lack the day-to-day personal contact. Their friends are on-line. Their lives are on-line.

    As for little things like toilet paper on the wrong way, I have to raise my hand for the small things. I have a little bit of self-diagnosed OCD. Some things really bother me, and I can't help but fix them. For one, tags on towels. I rip them off. I know, I'm horrible for doing so. What's the big deal? But it's like the tags are taunting me. LOL! Okay, now I sound like I should be in a psyche ward. But I'm working on not getting aggravated with the little things, and I am getting better.

    Anyways, I have removed myself from many negative people--family and friends. I do want to have a positive life, and hope I can help others in positive ways by giving back. Take care.

    1. Denise Sorry to hear you're running into grouches on the internet. I'm sure my day will come too. When people disagree respectfully I look at it as an opportunity to learn something, but you're right - there are those who are looking for an argument. I have no problem with that - as long as they don't expect to find it here.

      Towel tag ripping eh? That'll teach them to taunt you! We ALL have our petty (not to us) grievances. I have a friend who has 100 pets - and they're ALL peeves! I tell him I'm good with that as long as he's willing to pick up after them himself and doesn't expect me to feed them. :)

      Thanks for reading and adding to the discussion! I get the feeling we'd get along well!

  3. Fish, small or large, have not been on my list of favorite foods. As a result, you analogy works perfectly for me. I rarely cook fish at home because I really don’t like the lingering fishy smells that take over the house, sometimes for days - much like the sting from a criticism or complaint. Sadly air fresheners only mask the foul odors; it takes fresh air and occasionally washing some walls and clothes to get the odors out. I recently blogged about an incredible man; he’s just shy of his 97th birthday. What amazed me about him was his resiliency – his heart bears scars from painful times in his life, but he has let them go and moved on. It’s an art I wish I could master as well as he has.

    1. You are SO right about cooking fish at home. A moment on your lips - forever on your drapes! Plus I don't fish tastes as good when I cook it so why torture myself.

      It's a funny thing about resiliency. It takes getting knocked around -a lot - and realizing that you're still standing after the last punch to develop it. People who live protected lives seem to crumble easily - much as we all do after our first big hit. It's only after learning we can get back up over and over that we develop resiliency. I'd like to say there's an easier way but that's not been my experience. The more we get run over the stronger we get, so, I guess what I'm trying to say is be careful what you wish for. :)

      Thanks for reading and adding to the discussion. Always good to hear from you!