The word crotchety popped up while I was reflecting on the destructive power of a critical spirit this morning, The remarkable thing about this word is not only does it sound like it means (crotchety=cantankerous and contrary) but it has a whole bunch of relatives—a whole crotchety clan of adjectives—who also reflect their meanings straight up.
Meet cousins crusty, crabby, surly, snarky, liverish, fractious, peevish, irascible, prickly and testy.
Usually, crotchety is followed by “old”—a crotchety old man. (Although when I asked my daughter to use crotchety in a sentence, she said, without hesitation mind you, “a crotchety old woman . . .” Hmm.
But as I considered this, I concluded a crotchety disposition doesn’t just show up along with the social security check one day. Granted, as we age we get more settled in habit, prefer peace to chaos, and order to disorder, the latter more likely a response to the need to find things. A bit of prickle may be in order, but a cantankerous spirit is a reflection of a lifetime of critical, annoyed, and intolerant responses.
Likewise, a generous, gracious spirit in old age is a result of a lifetime of practice in honoring others, in picking the logs out of your own eye before seeing them in others’.
I am reminded of a story I read in one of Dale Carnegie’s books about Bob Hoover, a famous pilot. He was coming back from an air show when the engines in his plane failed. He managed to land safely, although the plane suffered much damaged. Hoover immediately understood the problem: a mechanic had put jet fuel in his prop plane instead of gasoline.
This was no little annoyance. This was a you-deserve-a whoppin’ kind of mistake. A matter of life and limb.
The mechanic was understandably distraught when Hoover came to see him. But instead of berating him or dishing out his deserved punishment, Hoover told the mechanic that because he knew he would never make that mistake again, he wanted him to service his plane the next day.
Now that is an example of great character. Character that didn’t just show up one fine moment. Character, I suspect, that was developed, strengthened, and honed over a lifetime of practice.
We have a choice today what the lines on our faces will reveal tomorrow.
Time to kiss the crotchey kin goodbye.
May you recognize the grace, may you see his face in all you do today.