I know a woman who stops speaking to people entirely after one disagreement. It must be awfully stressful to keep track of who are the good guys and who are the bad guys. I wonder if she keeps a sad little list or something. That, and she seems to think that a lack of interaction with her is some form of punishment. I suspect many people find it to be a relief, because it is nearly impossible to meet her high standards. Who needs it?
And then there’s the friend of mine, in his 50’s, who is still bitter and obsessed with the poor treatment he received from his classmates in high school. Rest assured, none of those people are spending time thinking about him. And are any of us the people we were in high school? (God, I hope not. I was shy, lonely, and chronically depressed.)
I’d like to think some of those bullies matured and became decent human beings. Or, yeah, it’s equally possible that they are still asshats. Who knows? But that’s no reason to waste your emotional head space keeping them locked in your acidity. It only hurts you.
And then there are those people who seem to have difficulty distinguishing opinions from personal attacks. For example, I don’t like cranberries. You love cranberries. My dislike of cranberries doesn’t mean I’m passing judgment on you, even if you are a cranberry grower. It just means I don’t like cranberries. I feel sorry for people who can’t make that distinction. They spend an awful lot of time feeling rage and missing out on friendships. This is a waste of their valuable time, and an impediment to their happiness.
I find black and white thinking to be rather troublesome because human beings, in general, are rather complex. For example, I can be cranky and opinionated and forgetful and (brace yourself) unrepentantly liberal and inherently flawed, but I also financially support the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, the DAPL Water Protectors, Storycorps, the International Red Cross, the Humane Society, Goodwill, and my local blood bank. I try to be a good friend. I work hard. I love my dog. So am I irredeemable? No. And neither are you.
The people I respect the most in this world are the ones who can say, “I may not agree with you all the time, but I don’t mean you any harm.” First, do no harm. The golden rule is also an excellent philosophy.
Kindness, not confrontation. Calm, not chaos. Good will, not hostility. If you give yourself a chance and get to know people, odds are good that they’ll delight you. But you only get that gift if you don’t write them off based on brief experience.
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