Tag Archives: good

“World’s Best Cup of Coffee” – the case against superlatives

By Jacki Wood, That they might have joy

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Disclaimer: this is not the best column I’ve ever written. But it’s probably also not the worst.

“You did it! Congratulations! ‘World’s Best Cup of Coffee.’ Great job, everybody.”

This line is from the movie, “Elf,” when Buddy is walking down the street and excitedly enters a diner when he sees a neon sign that says “World’s Best Cup of Coffee.”

It makes me laugh every time I watch it. You know, because, how is that even quantifiable?

Whether a cup of coffee is amazing or terrible depends on one’s personal taste preferences, right?!

Best, worst, most. These are all examples of superlatives, an exaggerated or hyperbolical expression of praise.

And with Valentine’s Day approaching, we’ll be hearing a lot of these expressions, which generally makes me want to vomit.

Not that I don’t love the day of love or people sharing their affection for one another. The issue is the “best ever” phrase. “I have the best wife ever” or “I have the best boyfriend ever.”

We’ve been hearing other superlatives a lot recently, especially from Donald Trump’s campaign and into his presidency.

“I will be the greatest jobs president that God ever created.”

“I’m the most militaristic person ever.”

“I get the biggest crowds. I get the biggest standing ovations.”

“I would use the greatest minds. I know the best negotiators.”

But this is nothing new.

In 1900, literary critic and author Arthur Waugh wrote, “we are living in an age where everything is ‘most impressive,’ ‘most heroic,’ and ‘most immortal.’”

“The great arguments against the indiscriminate superlative are its insincerity and vulgarity. No man can use the perpetual superlative sincerely, since he cannot frankly believe that everything he has to describe is for the best in the best of all possible worlds.”

He continued by saying this may seem trivial, however, “whenever the literature of a country lacks dignity, there is something amiss with the national life and character.”

Superlatives can also be harmful in relationships.

It’s like posting on Facebook that I have the best husband ever on Valentine’s Day and then two days later posting how annoying he is because he leaves his dirty laundry all over the bedroom floor.

How can this be? He’s supposed to be the best husband ever.

“They are really hard to live up to,” relationship mentor Jana Kellam said. “And no one wants to be compared and have to try to live up to these superlatives.”

For example, she said, your partner cooks dinner, which was delicious, and you say, “this is the best meal ever!”

“Your partner may have felt great in that moment, but underlying your compliment is the implication that nothing will ever be able to compare favorably.”

“The next time you’re about to compliment something or someone,” Kellam said, “find a way of doing it that is empowering, engaging and motivating instead.

“‘I love this meal. Thank you so much for doing this for me. It’s beautiful and delicious.’”

In our “superlative-saturated world,” Amy Bailey, writer for MyScoop, said our society is not just addicted to but has overdosed on superlatives.

“When everything is super epic and the best ever, there’s no way to differentiate between really cool and just ok… What happened to just being good?

“In the Bible, we read that when the universe was created, God saw the light that it was good. There’s no epic, there’s no amazing, there’s no best ever – it was simply good.”

Now, I’m not advocating for mediocrity but I’m also very much a realist. Life is hard. I do believe, however, that we have the capacity to change, to learn and grow and become something greater than we ever imagined.

Instead of setting unrealistic expectations, though, how about we simply look for the good and say so sincerely.

I might not go to that diner because of the neon sign advertising “World’s Best Cup of Coffee” (I wouldn’t go there for the coffee anyway, since I don’t drink it).

But I might go there for a “Decent Cup of Hot Cocoa,” to hang out with a friend or my husband or my children, and have a conversation that’s honest, sincere and real. And good.

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Surround yourself with good people

By Jacki Wood, That they might have joy column, Nodaway News Leader

 

The first time I met Alex was about a week before classes were to begin my freshman year at BYU.

I knocked on the door of what would be my home for that first year of college, not knowing if anyone had moved in yet.

She opened the door holding a blow dryer and a brush, barefoot but dressed fashionably conservative, and her make-up fully done.

I noticed her lipstick.

I don’t remember what I was wearing, but I’m sure it was something like a T-shirt and basketball shorts and probably even a baseball hat.

I was not wearing lipstick – I didn’t even own lipstick – nor was I wearing any make-up for that matter.

Initial judgment (and not one of my best moments in life): Please don’t let her be my roommate.

“Nice to meet y’all,” she said in a very charming Southern way.

So this is the Texas roommate. Well, I do love her accent.

I lived in an on-campus apartment-style dorm my first year with five other girls. We had all written letters to each other before moving in to introduce ourselves. There were two from Utah, one from California, one from Kentucky, one from Texas and me from Missouri.

Alexandria Wagley from Gladewater, TX, was about as opposite of me as one could be. We ended up sharing a bedroom in that apartment, and despite my initial ridiculous first impression of her, we quickly became best friends.

We were roommates for two more years before I moved to California. And we had some amazing experiences together. Most of my memories from college involve her in some way. Football games, religion class, late-night Taco Bell runs, listening to music and singing when we should’ve been studying, watching “Friends” and “Seinfeld” and “ER,” driving up into the mountains, talking about guys and so much more.

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After I got married and started a family, we didn’t get to see each other much, living 1,200 or so miles away from each other. But we kept in touch as much as we could, in the days before texting and Facebook. When we did get together, though, it was as if we’d never been apart.

But our friendship in this life was cut short. Ten years ago last week, Alex died after a brief but brutal battle with cancer at the age of 29.

I miss her terribly. But she taught me so much in such a short amount of time that I feel she is with me every day. And I could go on and on about all of the things she taught me but I could fill a book.

What I loved most about her was that she was genuinely happy and genuinely good. And her Texas ways always made everything more fun.

In the years since Alex’s death, I’ve kept in touch with her mom. She once wrote me: “Alexandria always continued on and endured cheerfully. She had so many disappointments, but she always came up smiling. She was such an example for me. She was THE force for good in our family.”

It’s been said that you become like the five people you spend the most time with, so choose carefully. And I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately, with the anniversary of her death.

I love this quote by Quentin L. Cook: “People have so much to offer us if we are willing to learn from them. That is why it is important to surround yourself with good people.”

So that is my challenge for all of us. Choose your friends wisely – surround yourself with good people. We can learn a lot from them if we are willing, just like I did from Alex, who continues to bless my life in countless ways.