Saturday, November 26, 2005

You don't have to be a lone warrior

Thank you to Catana, whose comment on a previous post reminded me of what I learned when I was around people whose stated values seemed very different than mine.

I remember when I lived in a small town where some people were prejudiced against other races, religions, and environmentalists, (which they used as a dirty word.) I used to argue with my friends about EVERYTHING. I thought they were lucky I would be their friend. Then I realized that I was lucky they would be my friend! I was the odd duck out and they still befriended me. I decided to pick my battle and let beef eating, hunting, environmentalism etc.. go and only speak up strongly to any kind of hate speech. I thought of this as a compromise, as a nod to the part of me who yearns to be accepted socially. Maybe if I was stronger and was willing to be alone, I could fight all of the battles.

Well, I'm glad that I yearn to be one of the people, because I am one of the people! (As idiotic as I think some people are sometimes.) I now live and associate with people who are more like me, and that is less stressful, but I learned a lot from those friends who were different. A, they were a lot of fun! We had fun in the mountains of a small town. They enjoyed life. Amazingly, even though their words could sometimes be prejudiced, I learned a lot about tolerance from them. I mean, they were friends with me, even when I was arguing all the time. They accepted people as they were. You could be eccentric, very eccentric, and still belong. My philosophy was more tolerant, but it could sometimes be as a "sounding gong" in practice, as I constantly, and I'm sure annoyingly, set people straight. Thankfully, through my self-imposed diplomacy, I was able to get close enough to really get to know those neat people. I developed a new philosophy of tolerance that I could use in practice, and when I use it, it serves me well.

My goal is to love people and be for people, instead of holding off and feeling like I have to fight against people. When I feel love for people, it's like people just flock to me and I don't have to do anything. But I still get afraid, especially if I think other people just don't understand something and it is urgent that I tell them. I have seen a reappearance of my battle fighting self at school lately. In fact, just this morning I had a dream that I was at a long table and kept interrupting people to correct them. It was a compulsion. Everytime I did it, I knew it wasn't the best way. I put my head down on my arm and sighed.

This is for anyone else who gets a savior complex every now and then. This is for me. So, here is what I have learned since having buddies who took me digging (driving a truck in deep mud,) called me over to watch their goslings hatch, played WWF (wrestling) on mattresses in the livingroom, argued with me about milk, and thoughtfully did not kill any animals when I was along for the ride:
  1. Everyone has something valuable to give, even if it is not apparent at first. So, pre-emptively giving people respect will be the most accurate approach.
  2. Assume that people have good intentions and are intelligent when you are trying to understand them and you will usually understand people who have very different opinions than yours much more accurately.
  3. Tell yourself, "I don't have to fix everything. I do not have to be the savior of the world or even of the people in my immediate vicinity. People will eventually get it," (whatever "it" is to you.) "They will be ok." (This is the part that takes faith, opposite of fear kind of faith.)
  4. No matter how sensible and enlightened your values and opinions are, people will not want to be around you or listen to you if you are angry, miserable and treat them with contempt.
  5. And a positive version of the statement above: People will listen to you and want to learn more about your ways if you live a joyful life and love them. That is an easy, joyful way to be influential.


Dr. J said...

Well said, Braidwood. I used to be an opinionated "fighter" type for all kinds of social causes too. But eventually I both burned myself out and alienated myself from most of humanity. After I dropped that and started practicing acceptance and loving, things worked out for the better, and people started listening to me.

'Cause of course, I'm still right. ;-)

Laura Moncur said...

Excellent post, Braidwood!

Well written and so helpful.

Laura Moncur

Braidwood said...

Dr. J,
Exactly! ;)

Thank you!