Don’t Bite Off Your Nose to Spite Your Face


I was a pretty combative kid who grew up to be a pretty confrontational adult. I was a no-holds barred verbal fighter who carried a grudge. Maybe it’s because of these potentially alienating personality traits that my mom started saying, “Don’t bite off your nose to spite your face.” I like to think that I was a pretty smart kid, and I did a lot of reading, so I also like to think I had a pretty substantial vocabulary. While I understood the individual words in that statement, I didn’t really grasp the meaning of it.

But as time wore on, it started to make sense. Most recently, when I received a grade that I was disappointed with, my initial impulse was to e-mail the professor and contest my grade. Obviously, it would have felt good to point out what I saw as the flaws in her grading process. “Use a rubric”, I wanted to put as the subject to an e-mail that would have been satisfying to write, but not very productive in the long-run.

Instead, I sent a carefully-worded e-mail asking if I could re-do the assignment, and the professor agreed.

The moral of the story? Don’t bite off your nose to spite your face. Also, listen to your mother.

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