Right now no matter where you go you will be subjected to the views of others. We are at the frenzied peak of political madness surrounding the upcoming presidential elections. You can’t escape the explosion of rants flying in all directions. In fact sitting here in a small town coffee shop here in New Bern, North Carolina I can’t avoid hearing the barista’s conversation with some of the locals over issues like abortion, gay marriages, and the NRA. In the spirit of friendly debates he speaks out about his views about keeping religion out of politics, the seesaw of each candidate’s stands on the subjects that the country is expecting them to have answers for, as well as his views on foreign affairs. He argues that government has to come into the future and allow free-thinking Americans to make their own choices without imposing their Christian government values. While I respect this man’s desires to tell his government they need to step up and accept change and encourage economic growth, I was slightly off-put after ordering my iced latte and being told I needed to turn around and walk several buildings away to use the ATM at the bank who will then charge me $3.00 to take out enough cash to pay for my $3.50 coffee. And if I wanted to use the bathroom after drinking my very watered down coffee drink I would need to leave again to use the public bathrooms several blocks away. However this happens to be the only coffee shop in the area and the only place with wifi that isn’t part of a hotel. Good grief! What happened to coming into the new age? Take credit/debit cards and install a freaking public toilet! Especially since you have a large fountain tinkling water constantly in my ear!
I honestly try to keep an open mind about most things. But I am sure I am just as guilty about being closed-minded when it comes to certain topics. I think we are all entitled to our own thoughts and should live by our own code of conduct. And as much as you try, you can’t change anyone by force. In fact some people will never give up their ways no matter what tactics you use.
So what can you do? Well that is a question I am always struggling with myself. I think the answer is that you have to accept what you can, move forward not backwards, and let the rest go.
A few years ago a very close friend of mind admitted he wasn’t sure he believed that marriage was right for anyone who wasn’t a man and a woman. His wife a devout Christian woman had strong views about homosexuality being immoral and in the effort to keep her happy he followed her to church on Sundays and listened to the preacher’s sermons and lectures about what was moral and what was a sin. Not really thinking it applied to him, my friend took the stand that gays should not ask to be married since that wasn’t what marriage really was and perhaps they should ask for a new word. Well… my head exploded and for the first time I really understood that I had no idea that he felt this way. Actually, I was shocked that he and I could be such close friends for so many years and he was so dumb!
So what happened? Well a part of me wanted to tell him how wrong he was and get on my own pulpit and preach about the value of love and commitment. However that would be just as wrong to use my friendship as a weapon and key to holding his attention while I forced my views down his throat. Instead we enjoyed a lot of long and incredible conversations about the topic. I learned a lot about him and he gave me the chance to explain where my thoughts came from. In truth, I didn’t want him to just change his views about marriage equality because I said so, I wanted him to make informed choices for how he would vote about such issues based on his own beliefs. Would I stop being his friend because he chose to vote against marriage equality? Never! But it might come up in conversations from time to time. Well I can’t say that he changed his views because of me, I can say that he has a much more open mind about the topic and might just be on the side of freedom after it.
Yet that is a rare case I think. Some people are just hard set and won’t change who they are no matter how much effort you make to show by example and kindness. So you just have to move forward with your life and figure out what importance those people need to play in your life. It’s a hard choice to make when you have to realize that not every person in your life is going to like you, not everyone is going to live the way you think is right, and some people are just toxic for you emotionally.
I met a woman a few years ago and because of certain community functions thought it might be reasonable to become friendly with her. She seemed nice at first and open to the idea of becoming friends. Still uncertain about how I felt about her personally, I started to hear things from her that I really didn’t agree with that caused me to question if she was actually the kind of friend I needed to have in my life. Crude and judgmental, this woman hated other races, other religions, and anyone she thought was over-weight. And if you were in her circle of friends you were going to be subject to her rants about her feelings as well as assumed to agree with her. Nothing was off-limits and few in the community were left out of her gossip sprees. Increasingly I felt more and upset after spending time with her. Even worse, I felt dirty and annoyed with myself for allowing this toxic woman to be in my life.
Should I keep her around even though she regularly spoke nasty things about me to other people as well as the friends I care about? NO, clearly this woman was beyond help and I wasn’t ever going to be able to continue to be around her without really exploding on her. Can’t change her, can’t ignore her, so all that was left was.. let it go.. and by that I mean let her go. Yes, she’s still buzzing about my community stinging whoever she can along the way, but that doesn’t have to be my issue and I don’t have to let her cruelty and ignorance ruin my day. Do I lower myself to the nasty looks and name calling? No. Instead I try to be kind, listen when she speaks to me and keep clear of most conversations involving her. I know she gets under my skin and if I don’t want those toxins to affect me I have to become immune to it and let it go.
There are many times when I want to stand up for my beliefs, for my views, or in defense of my own feelings. Some days it is the right time to do so and other times it just isn’t worth the air. I try to keep in mind to accept what you can, move forward not backwards, and let the rest go.
What do you do when you come across a hard set mind?