Tuesday, March 3, 2015


I have them.  Lots of them.  They are very strongly held and at times, overwhelming.  I try to push them down and to be easy going and non-committal.  I fail miserably.

There are so many times that I lament being this way.  I don't think that people at work, for instance, would say that I am overly opinionated (other than a few people at work who are very opinionated and I have a problem with not being able to shut up and back down when someone is saying something stupid).  I hate upsetting people and so generally, I try to avoid spending too much time with people who get in my face so that I can't feel as if I can't avoid the conflict.  It does cut me off quite a bit though, since I avoid anything that I think is going to get me into a touchy situation.  My friends are carefully chosen - we don't have to agree (for instance, I have friends who cross the spectrum in terms of religious beliefs and that's just fine) but if you are one of those people who needs to make everyone else agree with you, I am not interested in being your friend.

It's amazing that I have survived in teaching as long as I have, because talk about a profession in which you deal with people with opinions!  There's nothing like an angry parent!  I've been really lucky in terms of the fact that I had some amazing teachers along the way who taught me that the secrets to having positive relationships with parents are 1.  always listen and reflect back that you have heard the concern, 2.  remember that often, you are dealing not with the parent sitting across from you but the child who that parent once was and who was made to feel inadequate by a teacher along the way 3.  never talk to parents to dump about their kids and 4.  always keep in mind that no matter how crazy the parent might seem to be, remember that he or she loves his or her child (even if it shows in strange ways sometimes).  Relationships with parents have been extremely good up until now (knock on wood) and I am generally pretty good at managing colleagues, too.

It's things like social media that seem to get me into trouble.  So often, I will post something wanting a discussion or some reassurance and it turns into something insane and upsetting and yet, I can't seem to back down.  On my Facebook page, there was a huge fight about vaccines (not because I am against them but because I feel that we need to respect each other and stop treating anti-vaccine people like complete idiots who are claiming the sun revolves around the earth), a fight about whether needing to hurt one's romantic partner is indicative of mental instability (and I'm sorry, I stand by that, if you need to inflict pain and degradation on your partner, I think you are a sick puppy and need help) and about whether children should be used to campaign for charities in public schools.  As the fur flies, I tell myself over and over again to just shut up, it's not worth the upset but somehow, I just can't keep quiet.  And if it's about "the lazy poor" or "stupid immigrants taking jobs" or "if they don't like that this is a Christian country, they should leave", I lose it completely.  I am so overwhelmed by my frustration at the wrongs.

So, the question for me is, is it a bad thing to have strong opinions?  I was accused of being opinionated by a "friend" who had the blackest of black and whitest of white opinions (and a complete lack of empathy for the fact that people make mistakes and that their realities are not always the same as hers).  I experienced her as being exactly what I described above - the person who was completely unable to agree to disagree and who couldn't leave it alone until she had "won."  It has made me so worried about being thought to be opinionated and I have been pondering that for a while.  I've come to the question, though - is it a bad thing to be the person who asks the pointed questions?  Is it a bad thing to keep a larger moral picture in mind, even if it makes other people uncomfortable?  Is it actually better to be the "easy" person all the time who lets everything go?

I don't have the answer to that at all.  For me, it's like so many other things in life - when I think of the women I admire most, they all have strong voices and I'm certain that they rub many people the wrong way.  They ask tough questions and keep their faith and their commitment to being salt and light on the earth at the forefront of all decisions.  Yup, they are not always comfortable to be around and they are not conformers.  At the same time, they speak truth in love and never seek to deliberately hurt of subjugate others. 

So, if I admire it in other people so much, why do I find it so hard to accept in myself?

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