Finding Grace When You're Surrounded by Idiots

Finding Grace When You’re Surrounded by Idiots

Excerpted from “Finding Grace When You Can’t Even Find Clean Underwear”By Lisa Earle McLeod

“The common denominator in all your failed relationships is YOU!”

My sister and I found this truism on a “demotivational” poster on, a site offering a hilarious “bleak perspective” on the ever-cheery corporate posters, calendars, and coffee mugs.

We got a big laugh over the common denominator poster and then went back to work, secure in the knowledge that it didn’t apply to us. A few weeks later I was on the road in Florida, touring for my book Forget Perfect. Before you start thinking paparazzi and glamour, let me clarify the details. It was my first book and while John Grisham gets an escort and limo, I was navigating the roads of Tampa alone in a cheapo rental car.

After finding myself lost and late for the third time in three days, I started to lose it. I had gotten directions from three different TV stations, and they were all bad. As I called a friend and began ranting and raving about how nobody knows how to give good directions, I suddenly realized-Oh my God, it’s ME! The poster was right. Three different sets of directions from three different people, and the one who got lost every time was me.

Connecting my current navigational problems to a few other areas of my life, I began to see a common trend in my annoyances with others. A random polling of friends reveals I’m not alone. We’ve all got our own particular hot buttons. The players may change, but we often find ourselves in eerily similar situations over and over again. And the frustrations we have with others can reveal more about our own personal neuroses than about theirs.

Somebody who’s always complaining about people being so controlling? I hate to break it to you, but if this is your beef, you’re letting people control you. You might not be walking around with a big sign that says “make my decisions for me,” but you’re giving out the vibe that your opinion doesn’t count much. It’s a convenient way to get out of standing up for yourself, but it’s a pretty stifling gig over the long haul of your life.

On the opposite end is the “Do I always have to be in charge of everything?” syndrome. The answer is-yes, you do. Until you give yourself permission to step aside, very few will dare to challenge your authority. That feeling of discomfort when nobody steps up or even notices what needs to be done? That emotion is entirely yours.

Another common peeve is “this group is so cliquish,” often uttered by the person standing on the sidelines, waiting for others to invite them in. When you interpret people’s delight in each other’s company as a plot to keep you out, the only big loser is you.

Most of our beefs with the universe stem from the fact that everybody forgot to read the “memo on the world, according to me.” We’re all the star of our own movie, we’re common element when it works and we’re the common element when it doesn’t. But your best chance at true happiness is overcoming your own biases and learning to enjoy the people around you, warts and all.

May you find the grace to become to become the common denominator in your own fabulous life. And my you never let your dirty laundry stand in your way.

Excerpted from Finding Grace When You Can’t Even Find Clean Underwear (April 1, 2007 – Jefferson Press) Lisa Earle McLeod is an author, speaker and syndicated humor columnist. Contact her or join her blog at

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(C) Copyright 2007, by Lisa Earle McLeod. All rights reserved.