by Kenneth Justice
~”You’ve got to pick and choose your battles”
Ever hear that before? Whenever we deal with conflict, whether in a face-to-face context, over the Internet, or in any type of situation we will often be told by friends and loved ones, “you’ve got to pick and choose your battles” But how do we know which battles are worth fighting? How do we know which discussions are worth continuing? Many conversations can easily turn into verbal wrestling matches……and do we really want to fight over every subject?
Some people subscribe to the philosophy of never talking about politics or religion; “those subjects are just too controversial and it’s easier to live my life by never discussing those things” they say.
Yet we are adults……why can’t we be adults and talk about hotbed topics with respect toward each other?
A popular psychologist in the United States teaches her clients to be ‘stupid and cheerful’. Dr. Joy Browne says that the secret to successful relationships with relatives and close friends is to be ‘stupid and cheerful’; to ignore their insults, ignore their meanness and to simply be nice toward towards the nasty people in your life.
In many instances I agree with Dr. Browne, there are a lot of people out there that aren’t worth ‘getting into it with’….they aren’t going to listen to anything we have to say so what is the point of arguing with them? In fact, I suspect that being stupid and cheerful is a good attitude in most situations because if we are going to be honest; most people simply don’t care about changing, they are going to continue being miserable people and there is nothing we can do about it.
However, aren’t there any times in our life where we should fearlessly tell someone the truth even though we know it’s going to potentially turn into a blood bath of verbal linguistics? Yet…I’m not so sure. How many times in life is anything really accomplished by telling someone ‘what we think’ when it comes to something serious about their character, choices, or fill-in-the-blank?
Even with our children it can be a slippery slope because children don’t want to hear their parents telling them ‘what is wrong” with their lives.
Many parents have told me; “The reason I tell my children what is wrong with what they are doing is because I want to protect them….I don’t want them to make the same mistakes I made when I was younger”……However; aren’t those ‘mistakes’ what made you who you are? Aren’t the ‘mistakes’ the things you really learned from in life?
Don’t we need to tread cautiously when it comes to telling our older children or anyone ‘what to do’? For some time I have realized that Western Culture permeates this idea among us that it is essential for us to ‘tell others what we think is wrong with them or their beliefs’ and I suspect this is a very dangerous attitude. The fact of the matter is that nobody is perfect and even if you are VERY convinced in your opinion about someone….you could still be wrong. And even if you are right….are you really going to ‘change’ someone by telling them what you think? In most instances people are still going to do what they want to do…regardless of what we tell them.
Working as a counselor I observed countless other counselors and therapists who spend their careers telling other people their opinions; I wasn’t impressed. I knew the private lives of the counselors and therapists I worked with and they were every bit as screwed up as their clients…but in different ways;
—) Sure, maybe the therapist wasn’t a drug addict; but he had a rocky relationship with his wife
—) Sure, maybe the therapist wasn’t an alcoholic, but she was a horrible mother to her children
—) Sure, maybe the therapist wasn’t a codependent, but he was miserable person in his private life and had no friends
Thus, the therapists who I really respected were the ones who were very cautious in sharing their opinions with the clients. The therapists I really respected were the ones who spent all of their time listening, asked a couple questions, and let the client work out their own problems. The therapists who had an attitude that they were no better than the client…were the therapists that I loved the most.
For now it’s time for another coffee,