Any discord in the world causes me to feel emotional pain. Regardless of my action or inaction—ignoring, rebutting, defending / affirming the discord (or one side of the discord) causes me personal conflict.
My great-grandmother used to say,
“If you don’t like what you see, then look the other way.”
I see a lot of things I don’t like.
- When I read Facebook posts I don’t agree with or I find distasteful, I typically just hide and move on.
- When I see television content that is shocking, violent, hateful, deceitful, forcing an agenda, or in some other way offensive to me, I turn the channel or turn off the television.
- When I encounter someone who is basically an automaton, repeating talking points which are based on no facts, partial facts, or outright lies instead of expressing their own well-researched, reasoned arguments, I try not to engage.
Where is the Path of Least Resistance?
As I age, conflict bothers me more and more. Therefore, I try to avoid it whenever I can. Discord of any kind causes me to feel emotional pain—even when I’m not one of the parties to the argument.
At times, I find myself trying to weigh which is my “path of least resistance”.
- Speaking up about an issue I feel needs to be addressed, OR
- Ignoring the issue and moving on with my day.
Although I find myself ignoring more often than engaging, neither choice offers a simple decision for me. Do I remain silent and endure my own self-criticism for inaction or do I speak up and open myself to ridicule from others?
Although my great-grandmother offered sage advice on the matter, I’m also reminded of the result of doing nothing being the triumph of bad over good, originally quoted as:
“Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends than that good men should look on and do nothing.”
-John Stuart Mill (1), in an address at the University of St. Andrews in 1867
Tolerance or Agreement?
Since I detest conflict, I find myself tolerating and ignoring a lot of behavior that I find objectionable, which begs the question: When does “tolerance” become “de facto agreement”?
- I am tolerant of views other than my own, but I may not AGREE with those views.
- I may understand someone’s viewpoint, but again, I may not AGREE with that viewpoint.
- If I ignore injustice, malice, and moral corruption am I actually accepting that behavior?
I don’t want to tolerate behavior that I feel is truly unacceptable. But I don’t have the need to destroy someone who has a differing viewpoint than my own nor do I desire to be potentially eviscerated for having a differing viewpoint.
I also struggle with the concept of judgment. Who decides what is RIGHT and what is WRONG?
Conflicting Feels About Conflict
Have I mentioned, I REALLY hate conflict?
Especially conflict based on faulty presumptions, partial facts, outright lies, and twisting a situation to force an agenda.
I don’t want to engage in conflict because it brings to the surface all the feelings I don’t want to feed—anger, impotence, injustice, lack of control, indignation, helplessness, etc.
However, whether I want to engage or not, I am constantly confronted with people who support causes without knowing the facts, spew vitriol toward people who disagree with their viewpoint, and share content that is visually upsetting. Although I try to ignore and disengage from these visual, written, and oral assaults, the anger affects me whether I engage or not.
People angrily and belligerently show their support for a cause (or person, or event) instead of rationally explaining their support.
People are more interested in pointing out our differences than in looking for similarities.
I understand the need to “do something” that will have a tangible impact, but I also agree with Thucydides (History of the Peloponnesian War):
“I think the two things most opposed to good counsel are haste and passion; haste usually goes hand in hand with folly, passion with coarseness and narrowness of mind.”
So what does a person do to counteract the onslaught of upsetting messages, pictures, and video? Especially someone who is very sensitive by nature?
I don’t have the answers. I struggle with this a lot. I don’t generally speak out about topics fraught with conflict, because again, I don’t have a desire to engage conflict—especially when a differing opinion will only lead to an emotional argument instead of a spirited conversation based on facts.
Speaking Up; Speaking Out
However, I AM speaking up, because I want to encourage myself and others to start engaging in civil discourse and useful action.
- I want us to all stop engaging in activities that are not useful. Patting ourselves on our collective backs for “hash-tagging a cause” is not useful. If you want to help a cause, donate your time or your money to help. If you donate your time, please do so in a non-violent manner, not by inciting riots and destroying the property or lives of others. If you want others to help you do something tangible for your cause, share why this cause is important to you. Not in a confrontational manner and not by sharing pictures that you know will be upsetting to others, but in a manner that shows your passion for this particular cause and inspires others to embrace your cause.
- I want us all to acknowledge that none of us have all the answers. I have learned much from others and I still have much to learn from others. I’d also like to believe that I have much to teach others. If we disagree about something, help me understand your point of view. Use your “inside voice” and your most nurturing method of communication to explain your perspective. We may still disagree when we part ways, but hopefully our encounter will have given us both something to think about and our lives will be richer for the experience.
- I want us to all stop taking on the role of judge and jury. If you’re not a party to a court case (e.g., plaintiff, defendant, witness, lawyer, jury, judge, etc.) then you don’t have the right to pass judgment regarding the outcome. You weren’t there. You are not entitled to vilify any of the parties to that court case because you disagree with the verdict. You do not have access to all the facts. Therefore, you do not have the right to prosecute on social media the people involved in the crime. You always have the right to your opinion, of course, but you do not have the right to judge actions and spew vitriol about a situation of which you were not directly involved. This same approach applies to basically anything else that occurs that does not directly involve you. (e.g., tragedies, politics in any country other than your own, etc.) Kindly look away if you don’t like what you see here.
1) Yale Book of Quotations, s.v. Burke, Edmund (entry 28) and Mill, John Stuart (entry 18). See Mill’s comment in context in Inaugural Address: Delivered to the University of St. Andrews, Feb. 1st, 1867 (London: Longmans, Green, Reader and Dyer, 1867), 24.