Thursday, Apr 17, 2014
Linda Downing

'Don't Ask; Don't Tell'

Published:   |   Updated: May 3, 2013 at 08:59 AM

"Don't ask; don't tell" was not always a military debate. It was an etiquette brief, something called "taste." Some things should not be asked; some things should not be told. The earlier we learn discretion the better; unfortunately for some, an old definition fits: "Discretion is a comb that experience hands us after we have lost our hair."

Gan Wenqi of the University of British Columbia found that people who work in noisy places triple their risk of a serious heart problem. However, in today's economy, complaining about job noise may lead to job loss; that also hurts the heart. Arthur Aron of the State University of New York discovered that falling in love stimulates the brain's production of a potent painkiller. Caution: In our show-and-tell climate, publicly flaunting a love obsession may lead to open rejection; nothing relieves that hurt.

Psychology professor Holly Schiffrin boils determination of happiness down to 50 percent genetics, 10 percent life circumstances, and 40 percent intentional activity.

Writer Maya Angelou advises we not complain but get quiet and find a way to change things. That does not necessarily mean broadcasting our lifestyles, sexual preferences, fantasies, piercings and tattoos, with hopes of forcing agreement. Outings, common as the f-word, may temporarily produce self-satisfaction but can also bring despair.

Used wisely, Facebook and other websites may be fun, but foolishness creates personal and media nightmares, even criminal activity. We used to write our innermost thoughts in diaries locked with keys. We thought the worst happened if our mothers found and read them. Now, one unguarded moment by a teenager, snapping and sending provocative pictures over the web, can lead to shame, bullying, and suicide. Facebook "friends" rob houses when the owners, believing they must be tied to everyone all the time, announce departures.

Another recent study said we are better off drunk than texting behind the wheel. Yet, one poll found 66 percent admit they text and drive. We cannot be alone; we cannot keep secrets; we are driven to reveal everything NOW, even if it kills us, and others.

Actress Lisa Rinna posts her face, sans makeup, on her website to prove she is not over-Botoxed. We can all see her lips; enough said. Sharon Osborne says her removed breast implants are good for nothing except paperweights for Ozzie's desk; that's more than we need to know. Last year, 5,000 American women opted to have butt implants. With rears sticking out like overstuffed bookshelves on flat walls, we can't miss them.

Ancient king Hezekiah lost everything because he showed everything, all to satisfy human vanity: "There was nothing in his palace or in all his kingdom that Hezekiah did not show them" (2 Kings 20:13). "Them" turned out to be the enemy.

The 2010 Nobel Peace Prize just went to Liu Xiaobo, a Chinese writer who has spent his life exposing evil and promoting human rights. He probably does not know of the award.

He is in his second year of an 11-year prison term. No doubt he considered well the cost of what he "outed" beforehand; his reward lies within him.

Finding truth requires the right starting point. That is the quest of this column. If you are a seeker of simple truth, we can find it together-side-by-side.

Linda M. Downing is a freelance writer. Contact her at


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