Every one of us loves our own story. We are all attached, consciously or unconsciously, to our very personal version of truth, our take on who is right, our convictions about what makes sense, our determinations about how one should live in the world. Certainly the fallacies in our thinking that blindside us about ourselves and others is one of the great themes so deftly handled by Jonathan Franzen in his spectacular new novel, Freedom.
It is also a concept that has come to have particular meaning to me in the last few weeks. A dear friend has recently become an ideological militant. She is taking the path of anger rather than gentle persuasion in her self-professed mission to change the world and to leave it a better place. The vitriol she has been spewing leaves an acidic residue on anyone within ear shot.
Cindy, a dear friend and a wise woman, wrote this to me recently when I told her about my discomfort:
I am struck with how much she loves her story. Before I did a lot of work on these issues, I would fight tooth and nail for my beliefs about things. One of the most helpful things I heard was this: “If you want to make someone happy, let them be right.” I know whenever I defend myself and my viewpoint, I am going to war. Who am I to make anyone believe or think differently than they do? If I loved them, wouldn’t it be an act of love to let them have their point of view in all its glory? And they will anyway…so in reality it’s hopeless. The question is, “Do I want to suffer over it?” That’s my choice.
Your friend seems quite happy with her anger. It seems to be working for her as far as I can tell. And for me, I’d ask, what does her anger have to do with me? What does her opinion of anything have to do with me? She is just believing her thoughts.
Cindy’s words helped me see the transparency of my own biases. Of course they are there and of course they are relatively invisible to me. It goes without saying that I think that my view of things is right and that I see things clearly. I believe that coming from anger is a bust, that it repels people away from you and creates resistance to your ideas. If you really want to change the way people think and behave, you cannot come from condescension and contempt but from a place of vision, optimism and hope.
Says who? Says me I guess. My belief system is no more or less valid than its counter argument that anger is the only way to really bring about change. As Cindy pointed out, we are all in love with our own version of life.
Taking this stance of the either/or and the both/and doesn’t feel like prevarication or evasion to me. It feels more like some valuable life wisdom, the kind you get more of during the second half of your life.
Well anyway that’s my story.