This New Year’s, I didn’t end up making any big resolutions, but I did wind up writing for First Things on a cognitive reframe that helps me spot actions or behaviors I should cut out of my moral diet.
When I review my day in an Examen or if an action catches my attention in the moment, I sometimes like to get a better perspective on my choices by using a reframe. Instead of just asking what I should do right now, I ask what kind of habits this choice is reinforcing. Would I want to sign up for a weekly class that trained the same skills or would I find it as unappealing as private tutoring in pettiness?
That kind of reframe helped steer me away from a card game that’s become popular in my friend group. Cards Against Humanity is a MadLibs-esque matching game, where one player flips over a prompt and all the other players choose nouns from their hands that best match (or amusingly clash) with the fill in the blank. But, by design, all the prompts in Cards Against Humanity are unpleasant or crude or salacious…
The game trades on the frisson of being deliberately provocative and transgressive. As you choose what card to play, there might be a surge of adrenaline as you wonder “Can I really do this?” followed by a sense of exhilaration as you make your play and, far from being scolded, your friends egg each other on to greater heights of ribaldry and offense.When my friends asked me to join in, I politely declined. If I were a runner, I could see an advantage in being able to push my limits for endurance and exhaustion. But, I don’t want to spend time learning how to ignore my moral squeamishness. I can’t trust that that kind of callousness will stay confined to the domain of the game.
Cards Against Humanity is so over the top that it’s relatively easy for me to say no to, but there are plenty of coarsening activities and thoughts I indulge in without noticing a warning flag, or, worse, running roughshod over my misgivings…
I wound up talking about one particularly bad tendency of mine, and how I’ve used the Hail Mary as a circuit-breaker with some success, but, as the year unfolds, I hope to notice a number of other pernicious habits that don’t call quite as much attention to themselves as Cards Against Humanity, but are the more dangerous for their unobtrusiveness.
Addendum: A friend of mine at First Things tweeted:
@LeahLibresco won’t play Cards Against Humanity because _______.
…and my D.C. friends have already promised/threatened to add it to their deck.