I had a friend “unfriend” me recently on Facebook due to “contention”. I found it interesting and a little bit baffling, I mean it’s not like we have discussions on a G7 Summit importance level, and while the discussions are sometimes intense, I have always done my best to keep them from devolving into a negative place.
I’ve been pondering the entire situation until I came across this talk by Brene Brown this morning and several things slipped into place for me. As I listened I began to understand better where I was standing and where my friend was standing in the discussions.
My friend’s decision was baffling to me because for the last year or so, EVERY SINGLE conversation I’ve had with her has been a result of a criticism she, or someone else, has had for an idea or belief that I have shared on social media or here on my blog. I’ve had no other interaction with her beyond debate. Nothing beyond a close inspection of where she believes me to be flawed. That doesn’t really bother me very much, it’s part of her personality and I accepted that long ago. It isn’t different than the conversations I’d had with her in person.
I am flawed, no doubt about that. I’ve got outrageously huge flaws in my character. I’m aware of them, more so than anyone else is. But my flaws, as prominent as they are, are not what defines me. The ability to recognize my flaws without negating my strengths has been a hard won battle for me and mostly an internal one.
The difference in our Facebook conversations recently has been that I haven’t allowed myself to be swayed by her overbearance because of my beliefs which differ from hers. In the past, I have simply withdrawn from the conversation or side-stepped it to avoid the contention. As she has advanced in her opinions I have retreated.
In fact, I’ve retreated so much, that over the past 4 or 5 months I have visited Facebook only infrequently, written my thoughts in blog posts only sparingly, and avoided most instances where I felt I would have to defend the thoughts and ideas in my mind with an argument.
I enjoy a good debate, I like to see varying sides of issues, theories, ideas, and beliefs. But I do not like to argue, which all discussions with her devolve into. A good, clean debate can strengthen understanding. An argument leaves you feeling sick inside. After I’ve stated my reasoning, supported it with the reasons I believe as I do, her aspersions (always general and broad in scope) on the morality, intelligence, and comprehension level of anyone who could believe as I do typically start; as do allusions to the grand scale of failure such ideas will undoubtedly lead to.
I did not have the heart to “‘unfriend” my friend, because I have a history with and an affection for her, but because of her actions I have chosen to withdraw from an arena to which I am actually well-suited; which is written thoughts and philosophies.
But just recently we engaged in a conversation that I did not sidestep. We debated differing viewpoints and I didn’t withdraw from the conversation as readily as I would have in the past. Because of this she labeled me “angry and contentious” and unfriended me.
I realized, after the shocked laughter and bafflement over this decision, that it is the best thing that could have happened to me in a long, long time.
Not because I don’t care about my friend, I actually care deeply and unfriending me with a vague promise that someday we’ll be friends again, when I can somehow measure up to whatever yardstick she measures by, is hurtful in nature.
But I realized, after watching Brene Brown’s talk this morning, that I have been focusing on my critic. I have been giving ear to the voice that has put me down instead of the many other voices that offer suggestions with an eye to lifting me up and encouraging me to think, to hypothesize, to test, and to create something bigger and better.
We all need critics. We can’t live in a world of continual praise and believe that we’ll ever get any better, but we can’t let the critical voices keep us from “daring greatly.”
I’ve been afraid to dare. I’ve been afraid to create. I have been afraid to be myself because of someone else’s false perception of who I am.
I’ve decided not to be afraid anymore.
I love to create. I love to dream new things and write my thoughts.
It’s too exhausting to hide under a rock, waiting for the sky to fall when the world is so lovely and full of light outside. So that’s where I’ll be if anyone needs me.
Outside. In the light. Thinking new things. Talking about ideas. Daring greatly and defending my beliefs in the arena.