Better: Some Admittedly Disjointed Thoughts About Black Friday

Nothing brings out the ugly in people quite like Black Friday. 

You might think I’m referring to the people tackling each other over IMAX-sized flat-screens and Frozen II ride-ons. I’m not. I mean yes, some truly reprehensible stuff does go down on Black Friday. But that’s not the ugly I have in mind.

Nope, it’s the other side: The Black Friday Non-Shoppers.

These are the folks who hit social media to loudly—and quite self-righteously—judge people who decide to go shopping the day after Thanksgiving. And God forbid they should shop on Thanksgiving. I mean, how could they?

Now, listen: I’ve openly criticized capitalism a time or two or 20. But I’m currently (still) dealing with my own consumerism, I’m (still) working out the difference between wants and needs, and I’ve managed to improve my Delayed Gratification Quotient by a whole 1.2 days over the last decade.

Still, while I don’t personally feel the need to head to Target on Thanksgiving night, I wouldn’t describe the people who do as “ridiculous” or “stupid” or “insane” or “materialistic.” I mean, what do I care how they choose to spend their time or money? 

The judgment hurled at Black Friday shoppers is based in a character flaw we all share—whether or not we care to admit it: Arrogance. Yes, we’re all arrogant. Maybe not all the time. Maybe not even a lot of the time. But sometimes? We are. We’re arrogant. We think we:

  • make better decisions
  • have better ideas
  • eat better food
  • have a better perspective
  • spend money in better ways
  • use our time better
  • listen to the better news stations
  • vote for the better party
  • understand the Bible better
  • believe in a better version of God
  • run our business better
  • drive better cars (or no car at all)
  • parent our children better
  • train our pets better
  • care for the environment better
  • understand complex issues better
  • and on and on.

Sometimes, we’re right about the better. But things get ugly when we carry ourselves like we are. 

In regard to “better” and Black Friday: Do I think it’s a shame that businesses make people work on holidays? Sure. Except maybe they’re grateful for the time-and-a-half or they’d rather be working than hanging out with their bigoted cousin or they rather enjoy their job, so it doesn’t feel so UGH to get to do it on a holiday.

Do I wonder if Black Friday shoppers are spending money on stuff they don’t want to impress people they don’t like? Sure. Except I’m not going to judge them for it, for crying out loud. Mostly because I’ve done the same sort of thing more often than I care to admit.

Do I worry sometimes that families, including mine, aren’t as close-knit as they used to be? Sure. But going shopping on Thanksgiving doesn’t signal the imminent doom of the family unit any more than not having nightly meals together does. (But that’s a whole other rant.)

Do I wish more people would use their wealth to do good in the world instead of spending it on stuff? Sure. But how other people spend their money is none of my business and has zero bearing on how I use my own resources. Plus, loads of people spend a enormous sum of money on Black Friday and also give away a ton of money to beautiful causes. It’s not like it’s an either/or. Astonishingly few things are, you know.

So, now let’s think beyond Black Friday. Is it ever appropriate to comment on someone’s behavior? Sure. If it’s actually causing harm to someone. If it’s harming the person themselves? Sure—assuming we have the relational equity to do so and we’re willing to have a face-to-face conversation about it. But is it OK to make a blanket post on Facebook about a general group of people and/or their behavior? I don’t think so.

For you mock trial types, I’ll beat you to the punch: Yes, I’m violating my own rule and displaying my own arrogance here. I do think it’s better to keep my yap shut if I don’t have anything nice to say—particularly about something that doesn’t seem to have much social consequence. Except I’m here yapping, aren’t I? And some of the people who read my blog are the very same people who posted judgy comments about bargain hunters on Facebook, which means I’m being judgy about the judgy. Sooooo… shoot. I’m no better, after all.

Which is sort of my point.

Of course, sometimes we do need to speak out. How do we gauge when to stay quiet and when to say something? I have an idea about that. (I’m sure you’re so surprised!) Before we open our mouths, maybe we (me included) should ask ourselves a question: Is the primary purpose of this comment to make someone else look bad so I’ll look better? 

Or before we complain about someone’s behavior, maybe we should consider this question: Does this person’s behavior actually impact me in any way?

Or, in regard to stuff that actually matters: Does this person’s (institution’s) behavior negatively impact the livelihood of a marginalized person or group of persons? If so, comment away. But still not from a posture of arrogance or better-than; otherwise, no one will want to listen to you.

I’m (obviously) not perfect at this. No, I’m super-good at getting indignant on other people’s behalf and saying things either in ways I shouldn’t say them or in forums where such comments don’t belong or won’t be heard. I’m working on that. Slowly.

I just wish we could extend more grace to one another…display more kindness and less criticism about things that just don’t matter. I mean, do you have a coworker who tells racist jokes? Then call ’em on it. Have a family member who insists on a hugs from your kids? Politely explain that they get to be in control of their own bodies. Know a leader who’s misusing their influence in harmful ways? Have a courageous conversation.

Have a neighbor who spent several hours and hundreds of dollars on Black Friday bargains for their family members? Invite ’em over for coffee and let ’em brag about it. Doesn’t that sound better?