One of the best pieces of marriage advice I’ve ever received came from an unmarried friend at my bridal shower. She shared a quote with me that has popped into my head countless times over the past few years. Here it is:
That piece of advice isn’t only helpful in the context of marriage. I’ve used it when helping clients at work, navigating friendships, and talking to complete strangers. And believe me, following these wise words has saved me a lot of grief though I’m still learning how to apply them.
Today I made the mistake of entering into a heated conversation in social media. You see, I live in Indiana, and our state is dealing with some sensitive issues right now. I summarized the basics of my viewpoint in a few sentences, typed them out, and felt satisfied. I had no intention of having a back-and-forth conversation with someone I barely know; I just wanted to share a perspective that hadn’t yet been considered. But I was soon asked my opinion on a certain aspect of the issue, and I decided to respond.
I crafted my response cautiously, knowing that the person who had asked my opinion was on the other side of the fence. And while writing, I was reminded of Anne Lamott’s wise words. I remembered that I was interacting with a person, no matter how far removed he seemed. And so I decided that there was no reason to argue–neither of us would change our minds based on an internet conversation. I believe that there are times to stand up and argue for justice, but today’s interaction did not meet that criteria. Our small, weird, impersonal conversation via social media had the capacity for only one thing: a yucky argument. I told him that I while I stand by what I said, I didn’t think we needed to agree. I respected his point of view, knowing that his opinion doesn’t invalidate my truth. I chose to walk away instead of engaging in the argument because I knew that a heated conversation in that context would do more harm than good.
I’ve followed Anne Lamott’s sage advice, and time after time, it’s helped me stay true to my truth in the heat of the moment. I admit that I often feel frustrated by what other people say. Sometimes my blood boils and I have to remind myself that I’ve chosen a set of values that is not based on rightness, but love. I’ve chosen to value kindness, compassion, and empathy over being understood. And let me tell you, sometimes it’s terribly humbling. It’s not always fun or easy, but it’s what I’ve chosen.
So today I invite you to remember that you do not have to prove yourself. You matter. Your thoughts, beliefs, and emotions matter. You do not need to hurt someone else to make your voice heard. So please be kind. Choose your words carefully, because you never know who may be affected by them.