On words and perspectives we don't like

How should we deal with opinions that we disagree with?

On words and perspectives we don't like
Photo by Andre Hunter / Unsplash

This post started life as a Twitter thread but is something I wanted to keep around for longer.

There are many words that are triggers to people, such as moist (sorry). These words invoke bad memories, weird feelings, or acts of kindness, sorrow, bravery, or recklessness. Some words are not socially/culturally acceptable. This is perfectly normal and good! The fact is we are messed up people trying to live in harmony with other messed up people. As such, there are words, a form of communication, that will bring up memories or feelings related to times someone hurt us. The set of words that trigger are different for everyone! This is because everyone has different experiences. Even similar events are different between people. There is nuance in life and it's that nuance that makes us unique. We connect with others in life through our shared alike but uniquely different experiences! Cool, huh?

But there are some words that are almost universally not acceptable. To illustrate, think of a snake. Most people hate snakes. There are some explanations for that (that are beyond our discussion here), but suffice to say that for reasons, most people avoid snakes. It's a collective dislike and trigger that we mostly all agree upon! But does that mean snakes and words like moist should be avoided? No! If we choose to live in ignorance and shun words we don't like, we lock ourselves to a limited vocabulary and stunt our growth as writers. Comfort is the enemy of improvement. We also need these words to describe the bad things so we can do better in the areas in which we fail. If we never talk about snake bites or depression (among many other things), how will we learn how they are bad and how to overcome them? You cannot fight an enemy you've not identified and named.

This principle extends to perspectives we disagree with. If I say I don't like banana pudding, there will be 20 people who will each write me 10 page essays on why I am wrong. These differences in opinions stem from (guess what?) our individually unique experiences! No two people will exactly agree on a single topic, much less absolutely everything! It's our unique perspectives on life and its happenings that actually creates sympathy, empathy, and understanding. Now, we will naturally align ourselves with like-minded people. Comfort may be the enemy of improvement but it is also the road towards building those shared experiences and opinions. It's a double-edged sword.

So then, what about do about perspectives and opinions we disagree with? Just like words, we need to evaluate them and realize that there are views that are individually and near-universally accepted or rejected. Saying I dislike banana pudding is individual. On the flip side, murder is universal. No attempted justification for murder should be entertained or considered, point blank. Yet as with words, we need these different perspectives, both individual and universal. Absolute homogeneity, purified political ideology, and most any form of completely identical agreement is actually harmful (again, with the exception of some universal views, like justifying murder). It's through these different opinions that we learn what is good and bad and how we grow in kindness and understanding of each other. We need different perspectives to grow, improve, overcome. Differences are how we build our own opinions and identities. Even these "bad" or different perspectives can be used in a powerful manner to drive towards improvement. I have a short story, "The Transaction," that squarely falls into the triggering category. Yet it serves a purpose: to illustrate a sad state of affairs and they occurred.

Creating a echo chamber and thought bubble of only "approved" perspectives stunts our ability to show mercy, grace, understanding, sympathy, empathy, and patience with each other. These things distinctly make us human. Now, does that mean I have to hear these things all the time? No! You have the ability to mostly choose to see/hear/read exactly whatever you want. But when these topics arise, your truest character form is immediately made visible in your reaction or response. Condemning me and saying I should should harm myself because I dislike banana pudding is immature and childish, a reaction. Asking why, politely disagreeing, and maybe explaining yourself is mature and wise, a response. What if I continually twee on and on about how it's bad and I am immature and condescending to all who disagree? Then you can ask me to stop. That's my choice if I do, though. So then, mute me and/or unfollow me but don't threaten me! Your have the choice and ability to not hear it. If you don't like something, be mature in your response! Thoughtless reactions cause only trouble. Thoughtful responses bring insight and an increase in those distinctly human characteristics. Differences enrich life, not make it worse. Mute, unfollow,

Now, I am using a trivial example to illustrate a bigger point: the world, other people, are not yours to control. You are not better than them nor they better than you. Your individual opinions, dislikes, likes, triggers, etc., are not universal and neither are theirs. But that doesn't mean you can't be their friend or that you are given permission to attack them! A difference in opinions and world views is not a justifiable reason to ruin someone reputation for the sake of "owning them." I have read so many stories of people being doxxed, threatened, harassed, abused, and even committing suicide because members of an opposing political, religious, or otherwise unjustifiable groups deciding that ideological purity was better than compassion and grace and realizing that it is the differences that define us! Your words hold power. Proverbs 18:21 (CSB) says "Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit." James 3:6 describes the tongue as being "set on fire by hell." Wielding your words well is a life-long task. Yet refinement is found in using, reading, and listening to those different words and perspectives!

All this to say: compassion, patience, empathy, mercy, and grace go a long way in your interactions with other but also in your personal growth and refinement.

If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (Romans 12:18, CSB)

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