Are you someone who shuts down at the first sign of disagreement? I’m a recovering people pleaser. Growing up in my family I chose the role of mediator, reconciliator and all-around peacemaker. I made it my mission in life to make sure no one was upset, since upset often led to an outburst none of us wanted to witness. It’s no surprise that I used to avoid confrontation at almost all costs, though usually any costs involved were to my own self-esteem and well-being.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not one to run out and find a fight. But by the same token I no longer avoid a squabble just because it’s inconvenient or uncomfortable. In fact, I’ve come to see the value in disagreement because it can more clearly define the values I hold dear, even sacrosanct. As a child and young adult I studied the Bible extensively, cultivating some very concrete beliefs in the religion of my family. Still, my mother, who acted as instructor and guide in my studies, drilled one principle into me from day one:
If my own beliefs can’t stand up to scrutiny then perhaps my
beliefs are not built on as rock-solid a foundation
as I might like to believe.
When was the last time you really thought about your beliefs? Are they built on as “rock-solid” a foundation you think they are? Just recently I came across a recorded lecture by Margaret Heffernan titled, “Dare to Disagree.” In her work she teaches about “conflict avoidance and selective blindness” when it comes to our belief systems. She posits that having someone in our life or our business that is diametrically opposed to our point of view can be a very beneficial thing, not a thorn in our side. How can that be?
Margaret and my mother would be fast friends. There was a time when I avoided the “white elephant in the living room conversations” that could lead to an argument. Today my family knows, much to their chagrin at times, that I not only acknowledge the elephant, but I paint her purple so no one misses her, name her, make sure she’s litter box trained and invite her to Thanksgiving dinner. “Better out than in,” Grandma Esther used to say!
If we’re not careful, we can too often and very easily make decisions in the context of how society or our families expect us to act. We can live our lives the way we do in some cases because to do otherwise might mean we’d have to look at the garbage in our life that’s currently being hidden by the symbolically beautiful whipped cream we’ve slathered on top of it. The problem is that the whipped cream façade eventually melts or sours. Then we have a very wet, nasty-smelling problem in our life with which to deal. That can show up like the job that is literally killing us, the marriage that is only waiting for a straw to break the camel’s back before the divorce, or the health issue that lands us in the ER. Before we know it we can become lulled into complacency, not because we love our current situation, but because it’s comfortable, safe and it’s what we know.
Is that the way you want to live? In a mediocre job, a “good enough marriage,” or a body in which you feel trapped? I don’t. I believe in creating a vision of a life that is worth living, one surrounded by people who are enthusiastically pursuing and sharing their dreams and living in a conscious awareness of the abundance around me. Does that resonate with you?
If so, here’s just one very simple act you might consider trying over the next week should any confrontation or argument pass your way. Before you utter one word, before you craft that snarky or cutting reply to shut up the offender, before you ignite a blaze where there was only a few smoldering ashes, do just one, very, very simple thing: STOP YOURSELF! Ask yourself three questions about the disagreement:
- Is what s/he is saying true?
- Is my anger right now because I’m avoiding a truth I don’t want to hear?
- If the answer to #1 and #2 are “Yes,” then am I willing to look at the situation, heal it in my own mind, apologize if needed and move on?
Okay, I know. I said it was simple and you may have just thrown your hands up in the air after reading those three questions. Good, you see the challenge. I said it was going to be simple. I didn’t say it was going to be easy. But what I know is that you can do this if you want to. The mantra I’ve learned to use is, I don’t do confrontation. I do communication. The key is to stick with communication that comes from the heart, without resentment or accusation. It’s not just what we have to say, but how we say it so it can be heard.
You have the power within you to stand firm in your convictions no matter what others are saying if those beliefs are tried and true. And, I know that if your beliefs are not withstanding the test of fire, you have within you what it takes to embrace the next step in re-creating your life and moving closer to the joy you envision. Love yourself enough to do this. If you feel you don’t have what it takes, borrow some of my faith in you this week and know that I support you in doing what needs to be done. We are always supported in our decisions by a power greater than us. The focus of my ministry to others is to help people access that power and find their own vision, their own path that reveals the essence of why they are on the planet. It is my joy to work with you in having that life worth living – how can I support you?
In Spirit, Truth and Playfulness,