Boy did this take a long time to learn. I was one of those kids who was always correcting the adults . . . at the dinner table . . . with guests present. I have never understood the collective unspoken agreements where we all allow people to lie and say nothing. Growing up I learned that it is not always kind to point out the truth but while I could apply that to sympathetic characters in my life, I still had problems when it came to my peers.
I felt it was inherently dishonest not to speak up when a lie was told. I was always the one who would speak up when other people were trashing someone, either defending the victim or taking them to task for being so mean. I eventually learned that is not always the right thing to do either and learned to opt for sometimes just going home feeling terrible about myself, rather than make other people question their own actions. I didn’t like me very much.
Living here in Australia, in the middle of red-neck country I have had to really learn how to shut up. My choice is to either say something and ruin the evening for everyone or say nothing and be miserable myself. I find myself wondering why it is offensive for me to object to derogatory racist stories and not offensive for others to tell them, loudly and continuously. And then I started to understand that there was nothing to be gained by my saying anything in most cases. These people were not missing information that I could provide for them and that would miraculously make them see the light and be forever changed. The only thing I could do is make a decision about whether I wanted to be around them or not. I had to accept they were the way they were, and focus on being myself, talking about other races with respect and not make it a constant battle ground. These people were being themselves. I was wanting to argue with them about who they are. That was the difference. I had to be myself and if someone wanted to argue with me about that – that was an argument I was willing to participate in.
It was a small paradigm shift but I have learned a lot being here. I have learned to let go of that need to be right. There are battles you choose because of their nature or because you care about or are connected to the people involved . . . but there are plenty that you simply need to walk away from. Even with my husband I have learned to allow him his own ideas and opinions and not correct him. And I used to … over some of the most ridiculous little unimportant things.
I am not responsible for how other people see the world and live their lives. I am not responsible for what they know or do not know. If asked, I am happy to oblige. If invited to participate in a conversation, I am there. I don’t need to side track everything with my “corrections.” Silence can say a lot more, in a lot less of a hurtful way, than words can. Sometimes I just say nothing, sometimes I walk away . . . and sometimes I never come back. If I am asked, I am happy to explain why. If not asked, I am good with my choice and I am sure they are happier without me there.
Being married to my husband, we have had such completely different lives and see life from different perspectives. We disagree on many things but we talk about everything. We love the discussion but are content to allow each other to keep our own opinion. I have changed my ideas based on things he has said and visa versa but neither of us have ever tried to tell the other what to think or do. I have learned from him how to better cope with people that I disagree with. I have a hard time masking my true feelings for people, whereas he is capable of completely disliking someone and still being polite and cordial when required by certain situations.
Most arguments are not discussions. No-one is listening, people are just hurling words with the need to win. THAT serves nothing, except feeding hate and we have more than enough of that in the world already.