The curmudgeon is an inner personality that settles in many an old man or woman. It may be a compulsive presence—the older person has little control over it.
It may have a history in the person’s life, or it may be doing
For example, in arguments, sometimes one person
wants to preserve basic values that he or she feels are
being too easily and unconsciously set aside. Others,
however, may feel that the angry person is just being an
old, impatient fool. They fail to see the greater reason for
the older person’s annoyance.
Older people may remember certain values they learned
as children and see them disregarded in the current
world order. They identify with their parents and teachers,
representatives of important values of the culture, and,
without thinking it all through, feel compelled to speak
strongly for what they perceive as right and important.
With my upbringing I never got in the habit of swearing.
My dad would always use a few mild cusswords, but the
family generally didn’t even do that. Today, out in public,
when I hear people using the “F word” several times in a
sentence, often when little children are present, I get upset.
But if I were to say something, I’d be laughed at for being an
old curmudgeon. Once, I couldn’t help myself when a young
man was surrounded by children and cussing imaginatively.
I said something, and he gave me the finger. Another time,
an offending man said, “Sorry. I wasn’t thinking.” Given
the choice of being a curmudgeon or changing my ways, I
sometimes choose the former.
In many ways it’s wise to stay current with the times.
Values and tastes change. Usually they improve. I’m glad to
know that today people are somewhat aware of ageism, for
instance, though we have a long way to go. But some good
values of the past get lost. To keep those values intact, a
person like me may have to risk being a curmudgeon.
Young people are building a new world, and their
attention is on the new. Eventually, they will get old and
their “new” ideas will be the old ones that they will defend
with considerable force, maybe as curmudgeons.
When you hear negative judgments, consider the
possibility that you might see something of worth there if
you looked more deeply and with an open mind.
Your Anger May Have Roots
But there are other possibilities too. Older people are not
always justified in their anger. It isn’t always good to be a
Some people seem to have developed a negative attitude
toward life all along. They may be dealing with abuse or
negativity far back in their story line. They may have had
a lifetime of struggle with authorities in business and
government. They may never have had the chance to think
deeply or enjoy sublime experiences of ideas and arts. They
may have given up any sources of deep pleasure because
of their felt need to work hard to justify their lives. They
may have been the victim of injustice and prejudice and
have never felt free to fully enjoy the bounty of life. In the
present, they may be victims of ageism.