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Column: What would Barney Fife do?
by Lauretta Hannon
June 06, 2013 12:01 AM | 4470 views | 0 0 comments | 124 124 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Q: Someone I’ve known for several years joined a new church a few months ago. This person recently “witnessed” to me and gave me some reading material that has me concerned, as it is supposedly “religious” but seems much more like political propaganda. I have some very good friends who are committed to other faiths, and this person underlined several passages in the reading material, having to do with what is wrong with those other beliefs. Please advise.

A: This would give me pause as well. Twenty years ago I would have dismissed the person with a curt verbal lashing. But no more.

You see when I was a kid, my dad would greet proselytizers at the door with a glass of wine and proclaim he was already “born-again.” They’d look puzzled, and he’d explain further that he was a “born-again agnostic.” When a church sign stated that “Jesus is the answer,” he’d ask, “Well, what is the question?” So I grew up with a distinct distaste for such things.

But these days I receive it differently. I’d advise you to remember that the person is doing what he truly believes will help you. Also know that he’s so immersed in it right now that he may not entertain your perspective.

That said, my response would depend on the nature of my relationship with him. If he was a dear, long-time friend, I’d level with him posthaste. If he was a distant acquaintance, I’d probably say nothing —unless he continued the behavior. In that case, I’d follow the advice of Barney Fife and “nip it in the bud.” Don’t forget that you can still be kind and express respect for his beliefs and intentions while you are nipping it for good.

As for inserting the political into the spiritual, that is just wrong.

Q: What’s the difference between being curious and being nosy?

A: Curiosity and inquiry are essential to a vibrant intellectual life. Being nosy is an unbecoming urge to concern oneself in others’ affairs.

For example, a curious person interested in forensic science will read on the topic to satisfy a hunger for learning more about the subject. But a nosy person will secretly procure a DNA sample from you because she’s been eagle-eyeing your movements from her back porch.


Q: I find myself second guessing and criticizing even the smallest things that I do during the course of a day or week or month. I’ve lived like this for so long that I don’t know how to stop. Your thoughts?

A: It sounds like you’re ready and willing to change, so you’re on your way.

I’d look for guidance from this quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson. “Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”

Getting to this point won’t be fast or pretty, but it will be worth it. Keep at it.

Send your questions to

Lauretta Hannon, a resident of Powder Springs, is the bestselling author of “The Cracker Queen — A Memoir of a Jagged, Joyful Life” and a keynote speaker. Southern Living has named her “the funniest woman in Georgia.” See more at

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