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A Faux Pas Is A Mistake In A Tuxedo

By James L. Snyder

Everyone who is anybody has a hobby or at least entertains the idea. Hobbies range from sports to crafts to reading and even traveling. Some hobbies don't make sense to me like collecting dead insects.

My long established hobby has earned me a membership in the POP (People Observing People) Culture. The rules specify that each member must swear not to divulge anything observed.

Being a minister, I'm not allowed to swear, so I am exempted from this rule.

I love to get a nice hot cup of coffee, a local newspaper and situate myself where I can see the most people in their natural environment. Nothing is more hilarious than observing people who don't realize they are being watched.

Don't get me wrong here, I love people. All sorts of people. I would never unduly make fun of anyone - well almost anyone. Everybody has something about him or her interesting and worth observing.

One of my favorite authors, F. W. Boreham, made this observation: Leave your house early in the morning and the first person you meet take him or her aside and write their biography. Of course, the person will not conceive anything interesting about his or her life, and that's the way most people are. We think everybody else is more interesting than our life.

The average person, in my opinion, leads a more interesting life than almost all celebrities, except for Elvis who is more popular dead than alive.

As an expert in the POP Culture, the most interesting thing about people can be summed up in one word: mistakes.

Mistakes are the common characteristics of all those addicted to oxygen. Other similarities exist among people, but this one thing supercedes culture, time, age and gender. Everybody at some time to some degree makes mistakes.

Two kinds of people populate our planet: those who admit their mistakes and those who don't.

Now, a mistake is not just a mistake. There are categories and degrees of mistakes. Let me list a few categories and see which one fits into your lifestyle.

The first category would be, inaccuracies. It is easy to get something wrong when dealing with numbers, especially dialing telephone numbers. Not long ago my wife, who works as my secretary, dialed a number for me. I can't remember now who we were trying to call, but I do remember who we really got.

My wife dialed the number and as soon as it started to ring, she handed the phone to me. When I put the receiver to my ear, I heard a sultry voice invite me to do things I had never considered before in my life.

Her words sent shockwaves down to the soles of my feet and back to the top of my head, only to repeat the procedure several times. I had heard of such things but I never heard it personally.

I immediately scowled at my wife and demanded, "What number did you dial?"

"I dialed the number you gave me," she said rather flippantly.

"Okay," I quipped, "listen to this."

I handed the telephone back to her and watched her eyes explode and her mouth drop open. She quickly gave it back to me, but I didn't want it either.

Inadvertently, she had dialed some phone sex number. We both went to the restroom to wash out our ears.

Another category, omission. This is where I get into a lot of trouble with my wife. It is not that I'm negligent but I do have the odd moment where certain bits of information are temporarily obscure from any immediate recall. Like when I go to the grocery store for my wife and get everything but what she sent me for in the first place.

How this happens befoggles my mind.

Misunderstanding represents another category. I really do not understand this one. I have been accused of misunderstanding some very simple instructions from You Know Who.

I sincerely miss my understanding but for now, I'll simply overlook it.

Blunder is still another category of mistakes. In this group, the mistake is rather innocent. It might be a result of some tiny oversight. After all, nobody can see and remember everything.

If there were awards for blunders, I would have a shelf full of trophies.

The list can go on and on. However, my experience as a card-carrying member of the POP Culture brings me to the conclusion that the quintessential mistake is the faux pas. If anyone knows about mistakes, it is the French. Just saying it gives one the feeling of something tremendously special.

A faux pas is simply a mistake in a tuxedo.

A faux pas can cover any and all mistakes. A simple procedure is associated with this. When you realize that you've just committed a faux pas, place three fingers from your right hand, never your left and never four fingers although two will work fine, across your mouth while extending your pinky. Then giggle and say, "Oh, pardon my faux pas." Then roll your eyes upward.

This is most useful when in heavy traffic and you've just cut in front of another driver. Your faux pas gesture will be immediately acknowledged by the driver in the car extending a solitary digit upwards. This is merely a friendly gesture recognizing your faux pas.

Of course, the superb response to every mistake is found in the Bible. "Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." (James 5:16 KJV.)

As someone once said, "confession is good for the soul." Do a little soul-work this week.

About The Author

The Reverend James L. Snyder is an award winning author whose writings have appeared in more than eighty periodicals including GUIDEPOSTS. In Pursuit of God: The Life of A. W. Tozer, Snyder's first book, won the Reader's Choice Award in 1992 by Christianity Today. Snyder has authored 8 books altogether. His weekly religion column appears in 13 newpapers.


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