Know thyself

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I am probably one of the few people who have been accused of being too agreeable.

It’s true — someone once told me I listen too much to others around me and don’t have opinions of my own. That criticism hurt, a lot, but I knew deep down I have trouble distinguishing my stance on issues if I know what others think. This could be as insignificant as what my favorite kind of sandwich is, or as relatively important as what kind of career is best for me.

Know that I’m exaggerating the extent of this problem for clarity’s sake. But it’s an issue I struggle with–let’s call it the chameleon effect.

Here’s an example: Since being around Columbians and New Yorkers, I’ve become much more blue in my politics to the point where “conservative values” are looking, on the whole, ludicrous. Yet for a period of time a few years ago when my friends and loved ones were primarily Republican, I didn’t have a problem going along with the majority of their policies, even though I disliked how violently they expressed them.

I know, it sounds pathetic. Where’s your backbone? Where’s the conviction that your beliefs are the right ones and that you’re going to stand by them in the face of disagreement?

The chameleon effect is to a certain extent unhealthy. And in terms of relationships, it can be dangerous. I have to be careful that the people I spend my time with are the kinds of people I want to emulate.

But it’s also not all bad. I’ve written about this before, but I do not appreciate when people set up either-or dichotomies for issues that are not one or the other. As if one kind of church or worldview has laid claim to absolute truth to the extent that nothing can be true outside of it. As if an activity is either sacred or secular. As if the two sides of the pro-life/pro-choice debate couldn’t both have legitimate points and couldn’t both value compassion. Sometimes you have to fall on one side of the fence for the sake of practicality, but there is value and power in seeing multiple truths simultaneously. You can certainly sympathize with a greater number of people that way.

If you’re one who is wary of loosening your grip on the Values or Beliefs you’ve always held close, you should consider that this way of thinking doesn’t dilute “Truth.” It strengthens it, rather, because it takes into consideration the many, many complexities of life.

So let’s make a deal. I will continue to work on forming my opinions and convictions. And if you’re of a more extreme nature, I recommend that you work on listening to the other side, whatever that may be. Maybe we’ll learn something from each other.

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