Think of it this way - when people have big things to wrestle with, often they take comfort in seeing mountains, skylines or beaches. Why? Because monumental things make a person feel small and impermanent. So all you need for the higher-power process is the idea of something that makes you, by comparison, small and impermanent, something that will long outlast your pain. It's about bringing your problems down to size.
Q: A friend of mine had the opportunity to meet my future father-in-law in all his childish, sexist-joke-making, benignly obnoxious glory. Within five minutes she was totally offended by him.
I used to feel the same way but have grown desensitized and now just sort of tune him out. But my friend was really annoyed by his behavior, and was also offended that I didn't jump in and censor him for her benefit. In her mind, if I really objected to the way he expresses himself, I would jump in and protest whenever he starts up. I just don't think it's worth correcting people all the time, particularly not older ones who aren't likely to change.
And if I have to be around this guy on a regular basis for the next who-knows-how-long, I might as well do what I've already done, which is to develop armor against it. Right?
A: Your friend is right in one sense, that if you "really objected to the way he expresses himself," you would jump in and protest.
It's just that in this case, you don't "really object." You see him as an anachronism best brushed off without fanfare. That's a calculation a lot of people make, and it's often a legitimate one, though it does tend to expose fault lines with those who feel drawing a harder line is appropriate. Your friend, meanwhile, was free to voice her own objections; she didn't need your protection.
E-mail Carolyn Hax at firstname.lastname@example.org, or chat with her online at noon Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.