It seems that all the lessons I’m working on right now keep coming back to differences and interpersonal relations. I’ll have these little mini-crises or single act dramas of things that make me upset or cause me stress and then I end up falling back to this same truth. What else to do but write about it, right ma dudes?
Ok for example. Twitter. Twitter is this weird place and it has this weird unspoken rule – if someone hates something you love you MUST become IMMEDIATELY outraged by it and probably confront them. The same goes for someone loving something you hate. It’s bizarre. I straight up unfollowed someone who said The Office wasn’t funny and someone who said Harry Potter didn’t deserve the hype. I mean, I stand by my decision. But it’s kind of crazy.
That kind of thing happened a few times in the last week and I kept feeling these angry uprisings inside me. One was a person tweeting at length about hating something and extending it to all the people who liked it. I wanted to immediately tweet-storm at them and tell them all the reasons they were wrong/stupid/missing out by not liking something that I believe to be OBJECTIVELY awesome. I also felt ~almost feelings-hurt about people making fun of people loving autumn. That’s so ridiculous! Well, it’s ridiculous to not love autumn. But it’s even more ridiculous that someone else’s preferences could even affect me.
What I’m saying is that I’m on both sides of this, every day. I believe my way of thinking is right and want everyone to agree. I can feel hurt or angry when they don’t. I can also be prejudiced and rude when I find out someone likes something I hate.
So I created a handy checklist for myself, and anyone else out there who might need a little extra help dealing with other people’s differences:
Does this person liking ____________ hurt me? Nope? Basically never the case? Oh. Yeah. I should probably just LET THEM LIVE.
Does this person liking ____________ make them a bad person? Unless it’s neo-Nazis or the band Nickelback the answer is PROBABLY NOT, at least not on it’s own.
Does this person hating ____________, which is a thing I like, threaten my ability to like it? If so, the problem is more with me and the thing and how I feel about it. Really liking something shouldn’t really be that contingent upon how other people feel about it!
Is a person’s entire identity and value minimized or defined by their feelings on a single topic? Again, unless it’s being a neo-Nazi, the answer is a resounding NO.
I have this problem where I really super internalize and personalize the things I love. They ARE me. It’s so easy for me to take offense about them, or feel personally attacked when they aren’t loved. I think we’d all do well to distance our personal identity from the things we like/hate. I am so much more than a fan of The Office. You have so much more to offer than your support of a particular football team. Those people on Facebook shouldn’t be boiled down to just their political beliefs, eclipsing (zing) all the other parts of them.
What we do right before we fall asleep. How we feel when we get terrible news. The fears we have of not being good enough. The warmth we feel when we make a new friend. The craving for our favorite childhood food. Struggling to get through a rough day. A subtle dance to a favorite song.
There is so much life in 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 4 weeks a month, 12 months a year, for however many years we each have lived. There is so much to us. So much more than our opinions, likes, dislikes of random elements of contemporary life.
So does it really matter if someone doesn’t like what I love? Does it really matter if someone loves something cliche or boring or uncool? It actually… super doesn’t. It really doesn’t affect me, and I’m working hard on that fight-or-flight response I have cultivated in response to differences. I’m working hard on being more centered in who *I* am, so that I don’t feel a need to “poke holes” in other people’s stuff, or feel like holes are being poked in mine. I’m working hard on not identifying people based on one tiny opinion they have about one tiny topic, in the broad universe of their greater personality and life.
“What do we do with differences? Do they paralyze us, or can they become part of the beauty of our lives? What are we teaching our children about the beauty of diversity? Are we teaching them that boundaries are barriers, are we teaching them that a boundary means an opportunity for wonderful explorations in diversity?” – Chieko Okazaki changing my life in Lighten Up, highly recommend. I don’t want to raise Reese & Malone to think that their opinions are objective, or objectively better than anyone else’s. Which is hard, because it means uprooting that conviction in myself. But I’ll try.
It’s ok if we are different. It’s ok if we don’t like the same things.
Except for Harry Potter. If you don’t like Harry Potter then you’re just wrong. Sorry I don’t make the rules.