My whole life I've struggled with being head-strong, stubborn, and opinionated. Such traits can be molded into great, character-building qualities, but, in my case, there's been a lot of eating my words and apologizing and, ultimately, life-altering (not in a good way) self-centered decisions. So much so that if I ever have opportunities to talk to younger people about the things I've learned along the way, I tend to give them this little tid-bit of advice: YOU DON'T KNOW IT ALL! I'm still, every stinking day, having to learn this. But what compels me to keep on keeping on with my efforts is when I talk with someone who is full of impetuous opinions. Everything is black and white, right and wrong, and they are obviously on the side of right. In these conversations, I see myself, and I don't like me. It takes a good degree of arrogance (and ignorance) to believe it's your way or the highway and that you've figured it all out.
I know cause I've been arrogant and ignorant. I used to know exactly how to be the most amazing parent ever, BEFORE I HAD KIDS. Now that I have four and am in the depths of it, I have no clue what to do and find myself backing all kinds of methods and just wanting to hug anyone who is trying their darnedest to raise healthy individuals. Also, I've been wrong one too many times and have learned it might be best to keep my mouth shut more often than not. For instance, I used to be an avid public school proponent. Now, while I still love public school, I have chosen to homeschool my kids cause I just want to be with them. I never (again) wish to act like I know how other parents should educate their kids. My way is NOT superior. My way is nuts and breeds a whole lot of crazy. It breeds a whole lot of great stuff, too, but I have loads to learn from other parents doing things a different way than I. Do I struggle with thinking my way is the right way? Sure. I also struggle with thinking I'm a failing idiot. And through all my arrogance and ignorance, the one concrete idea I've become certain of is, the quickest way to comprehensive knowledge or competency of any one subject is to realize and admit you don't have it.
I'm sure my parents and many of my friends and acquaintances will be thrilled to read this, but I'm learning that, in my conversations with others, I want to have less opinions and more contemplation. This is the motto I've sort of adopted for myself. The reason being, I want to be better. I want to grow. I want to have more friends and less opinions. That's not to say making friends is more important than standing up for what you believe. But sometimes, and please don't stone me for saying so, standing up for what you believe is less important than your relationships. Sometimes we fail to be kind because we get so engulfed in our opinions or beliefs. We (I) can miss the forest for the trees and end up losing respect of others because we fail to listen and consider different views. We perhaps are so emotional about a particular subject that logic and reason and compassion escape us.
You know, being married sucks sometimes cause you have to learn stuff about yourself that you wouldn't learn if it weren't for another person, day in and day out, witnessing your issues and lovingly bringing them to your attention. Something Heath has brought to my attention is my impulse to throw around the word hate. "I HATE when the kids do that. I HATE that kind of music. I HATE grapefruit. I HATE...." I really do say it a lot. Like way too much. Like my kids are now saying it. And it's so hyperbolic! Really? You HATE that, Hannah? Geez...so quick and eager to exert my strong emotions. I hate myself. Not really. But seriously, we (and I mean ME especially) have such strong feelings sometimes and are perhaps too quick to let everyone know. Heath has said to me time and time again, "You don't have to let everyone know exactly how you're feeling, all of the time." I hate when he's right.
Please don't hear me say that I believe nothing is wrong and everything is right, that it's wrong to have opinions and hold fast to them or to feel strongly, even passionately, about any one issue. That's not what I'm proponing. But I AM proponing the idea of checking ourselves and considering the possibility of being wrong, of keeping our emotions and logic in balance. ME ESPECIALLY!!!
You see, I'm a little tired of reading about how much some people love guns. It's not that I hate all guns or anything, but it just seems like some people REEEEEALLY love them and have made it their cause. I just don't get it. And you know, I kinda dislike people shoving their love of guns in my face. So guess what, I don't want to shove an equal distaste of guns in anyone's face (except right now to illustrate a point. I just randomly chose guns. Please don't attack me with second amendment comments.) You know, as is the case with most controversies, the real truth with the firearms topic likely lies somewhere in the middle, but we feel we have to choose sides, pick a team to back, and wear the jersey on each and every Facebook post every bleeping day.
This brings me to my theory. You can all prepare yourselves for a good laugh, because I'm about to make a poor man's effort at being philosophical. I have come up with this over-simplified theory that involves, and this is where the good belly laugh comes in...football. It's a highly educated theory, folks, one that came to me while watching Gilmore Girls or surfing Instagram I'm sure, and I'm 100% positive I'm not the first person to form such a theory, but I've given it a name and call it the Tendency to Team theory. We are a society of people who love to be on teams. It's the football mentality, and it spills over into all areas of our lives. We are driven by the competition of it all. Cheering. Taunting. Winning. Red team. Blue team. Democrat. Republican. We pick sides or teams and love fighting for the win. "But fighting for and choosing sides of an argument concerning beliefs is different than backing a football team," you might say. Very true. At least, I can only hope we would agree on that, and while football is only a game (sorry to burst your bubble), sometimes we unintentionally make larger matters a similar sort of game. We want to choose a side and win and can forget the layers of an issue for being so caught up in the fight. If we are honest with ourselves and one another, we will see and admit that, oftentimes, political and even spiritual issues are very layered and are embedded in more grey area than we want to accept.
Unfortunately, issues are never quite as simple as we would like to make them. And unfortunately, we can do ourselves and others a disservice by failing to entertain different perspectives. You know, if I sat down with some of the gun-happy Facebookers out there and had a real conversation about firearms, one that I wasn't bound and determined to win, I'd probably learn something. I might even somewhat shift my perspective by the end of our discussion, but ONLY if I check my head-strong opinions at the door. If I go into the conversation with the football mentality, the "we play to win the game" mentality, I will leave with my same near-sightedness and, most likely, one less friend. But if I come to the table with less of a desire to be right and more of a desire to further contemplate the issue, I might gain a friend. I might even gain some new knowledge or a different perspective. And guess what! We probably won't fully agree with one another in the end! But we can coexist with some degree of mutual respect rather than barking at one another, "GUNS, GUNS, GUNS!" or "NO GUNS, NO GUNS, NO GUNS!" Less opinions. More contemplation.
All of this is such a complicated concept. Actually, I'm stupid for even trying to take it on. It's such a complicated issue that it deserves pages and pages of research and doctoral level scholarly consideration. I mean, let's be serious, I am not a scholar. I'm simply a self-reflector and observer with an analogy involving a sport I don't even really understand. And, for the record, I believe in right and wrong. I believe in taking a stand, but I believe in doing so with less hurried opinions and more serious contemplation. Here's something to think about...some synonyms for contemplation are: attention, study, heed, reflection, regard, examination, review, discussion. Now check out the antonyms: disregard, ignorance, neglect, thoughtlessness, disdain, disrespect, negligence, omission. I don't know about you, but if I'm choosing teams, which, according to my fancy pants Tendency to Team theory, is our customary way, I choose the synonym team. I don't want anything to do with that other stuff. Who in their right mind wants to become more negligent, thoughtless, and disrespectful? I've been part of that team too many times, and I just end up feeling foolish like a losing football fan with a painted chest and one of those number one foam hands dragging the ground. So here's to the betterment of self. To the respect of others. To using the word HATE less often. To less opinions, more contemplation, and to being friends.