I have always found conversations around what culture is vs. what it could/should be incredibly exciting. I am thankful for the ability to contribute to the conversation that Tim has started, (grateful if you’ve read this far!) and would greatly appreciate your thoughts or comments on the matter. Even if you disagree, please leave any questions or thoughts you have in the comments below! What kind of person do you want to be? Now onto the good stuff.
We live in a reality where you are expected to react on any and every topic. Everything from how outraged you can be over a myriad of issues, ranging from the trivial Starbucks-Christmas-cup-gate to vital issues like presidential policy. Let's take a step back and stop with the off-the-cuff reactions. It's important to acknowledge the grand duality that is life. Nothing is as simple as it appears, and yet nothing is as complicated as we tend to make it. There are two sides to every story, and often I’ve found the truth lies somewhere between the two versions. I'm sure we've all seen at least one Facebook post about a stranger who is either the best parent or the worst parent, depending on which Facebook college the commenters graduated from giving them expert insight into a stranger's life. But the truth is that a thirty-second video can't tell someone's story. The only person who's the story I know in its entirety is my own. Which is why I always have a million excuses for my poor behavior, and I can so easily give myself the benefit of the doubt that I am a real person, it's just that X got in the way. I've learned, and I'm still learning, how to step back and not let my emotions control every decision. I can step back and look at my problems from an outsider's perspective. It's much easier when I don't have to account for my ego. But I believe there is strength in acknowledging that you don't know everything or everyone. In that light, I do my best to give people the benefit of the doubt. I don't know what their day has been like, so I'm not going to throw any attitude at them at the slightest hint of attitude toward me. I am a nice person; I try to see the world from the perspective of the person I'm interacting with. I care deeply; I listen intently, I respond thoughtfully. Above all, I strive to know the truth and to speak the truth. On the other side of that coin, I can be manipulative, sarcastic, cynical, dismissive and a host of other things I'd rather not broadcast to some of you strangers, or worse yet people who know me!
I'd challenge you to come up with your own set of statements. Know who you are on your best day. Figure out who you want to be, and keep working toward being that person. And don't be afraid to revise or refine it. Once I graduated from high school most of my friends moved on with their lives. I needed new friends, and I wanted to be outgoing. I was a little jealous at the ease in which everyone around me seemed to navigate social situations. I would cringe inside when the person I was with would strike up a conversation with a stranger. I desperately wanted to change. As stubborn and headstrong as I can be, I couldn't change that part of myself. So I let go of that desire. I know I'm awkward, naturally introverted, and I know I'll never have friends upon friends. I have a few friends who are dear to me, and that's all it takes for me to feel whole. I want to say explicitly: I'm not encouraging you to pretend to be something you're not, I'm encouraging you to mindfully be the person that you already are.
And I'll end with this: You will fail. You won't always be the best you in every situation; you might even completely lose your shit some days. I've been there. I think the actual test of manliness (or perhaps fe-manliness) is how you deal with your failure. It's hard to admit that you are wrong, and it's even harder to admit that you acted inappropriately in a situation where maybe the person deserved your reaction. But my entire reason for writing this article is to encourage you to interact with others based on who YOU are striving to be. Maybe the person you are communicating with is an asshole, but you aren't, so quit acting like one.
PS. For those of you who view life through a Christian lens, here’s some extra food for thought, let's call it dessert! In Luke, it says the following,
"But to you who are willing to listen, I say “love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also. Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back. Do to others as you would like them to do to you. If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners do that much! And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do that much! And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return. Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.