Monday, March 24, 2014
Two Sides of the Same Coin
In a single day–that’s no coincidence–I received two very different comments, from two different readers, to a post I published here last Friday titled “I’ve Earned the Right.” (To read the post first, please click here.)
Rather than allow these comments to become lost in my blog, I thought I’d feature them in a dedicated post, for reasons that will become apparent below.
First, the comments.
The one directly below is from a very good friend, someone I’ve known since junior high school, who I lost touch with over the years, who’s since reconnected with me, and who is as kind and compassionate and loving as ever. Her name is Loretta, and this is what she had to say:
I just had to comment on your latest entry. Most of the time I agree with virtually everything you write but in your latest writing you clearly returned evil for evil based on how a person looked at you and your immediate response to it.
I do not want to negate your feelings about what you observed but I would like to add a softer spin to it if you will.
As you know, I have been laughed at, judged and often times shunned because I am overweight. I am not immobile, I have a steady job, I have raised my family and I am not a burden to society in any way, shape or form. I do everything everybody else does and I'm overweight.
The way people may look at me, in judgement or not, no longer affects me the way it used to. I know the person I am and I refuse to waste my precious time here on earth letting the way people look at me or judge me become a part of my thought process.
I choose to return good for evil by accepting the fact that everyone has a right to be here and that everyone has a right to their own judgements and decisions based on what they believe to be true. To be truly authentic with myself I choose to accept and embrace the fact that although everyone does not believe the way I believe that does not give me the right to judge them.
You have obviously given this "nano-second" glance and "contemptuous smirk" a place in your heart and you have already "let the expression of a punk marginalize what Chris and I have" by giving it place in your world. I would hazard a bet that the "punk" hasn't even given the two of you another thought, let alone put it to print.
There are ignorant, judgmental people in the world and I believe it is our sacred responsibility to rise above their prejudices and to not allow their lack of understanding or compassion determine or affect in any way who we are. This can be difficult to do but we are the better person for it.
People have cynical attitudes because they know no different or because they refuse, by their own actions, to accept and love without condition.
Might I be so bold as to say that mid-embrace your complete focus would have been better served if it had been 100% on Chris. Why were you looking around? Did you perhaps think that someone might be watching you and that you wanted to see what their reaction was? Live in the moment, my dear friend, focus on what's important to you and to hell with anyone else. No one can "marginalize" what you and Chris have unless you let them.
Had you continued that hug into a loving kiss, I'm certain your eyes would have been closed and the people around you would have been of no significance. After the kiss, focusing on your partner and continuing on your way out of the airport without glancing around to see how others are reacting to you would have been a more pleasant experience for both of you. I guarantee that when I hug and kiss my husband in public I don't look around to see if anyone is watching. I know that a heterosexual hug and kiss is the "norm" and people accept it; I also believe that when you worry less about what others think and focus more on what is important to you that you will be all the more happier for it.
It makes me sad to think of this person's reaction to your embrace but it really breaks my heart that you saw it and that it has bothered you enough to write about it. I hope that in writing about it you have let it go and that by reading what I've had to say that you, and your audience, will choose not to judge others as they are judging you. I'm not certain this person deserved an f-you look on your face. You don't know him anymore than he knows you and by passing judgment on him you, in fact, become no better than he. Judgmental, narrow minded people exist, and they need to be shown by our good example that we exist too.
No matter his religious beliefs or what he was raised to believe is right or wrong, I'm betting that because your relationship with Chris is "older than he is" that he simply hasn't evolved into the kind of person who can easily accept people for who they are. I'd like to give him the benefit of the doubt. My bet is that he's not even comfortable and/or accepting of himself and that's where our own acceptance of others begins, when we truly accept who we are.
My friend, I love you to pieces and I'm so happy that you have the relationship that you and Chris deserve.
The next comment is from an anonymous reader and self-explanatory:
You made me feel brave enough to face any kind of discrimination with this. I'm a regular reader, but I never post any comments. I hope I'll be as proud and confident as you are one day. Thanks for creating this blog and for sharing your thoughts... They've been extremely helpful.
I find myself caught in the middle of these two comments.
On the one hand, I totally understand what Loretta wrote. I know her inspired comment comes from a place of love, and she has only my best interests at heart. On the other hand, I identify with the anonymous reader, who’s obviously had difficulties dealing with the reactions of some people toward his or her sexual orientation, and who’s found in my words both support and strength.
I have no intention of justifying my reaction toward the young man at the airport. Yes, I could have chosen not to include it in the post. Yes, at the very least, I could have chosen not to publish it here for everyone to see. But I made the conscious decision to represent myself the way I really am, to share the way I really responded, whether it was right or not. I did it, and I must own it.
Let’s just say, as much as I’ve written here in the past that it’s critical to be in the moment and not allow some people to bring you down with the things they do or say, it’s difficult to do that sometimes, particularly when certain reactions in certain situations have become second nature, and when you almost tempt something bad to happen because you expect it to. Old habits do indeed die hard.
I believe a lot of responsibility goes with writing a blog, particularly when you hope your voice is a positive, encouraging, and helpful one. It’s easy in our culture to contribute to the negative energy in the world, adding to the enormous amount already out there. Much more challenging is to adopt a measured and restrained perspective, one that relies less on emotion (and, dare I say, fear), and more on common sense–even compassion.
I'm worried to think my defiant, knee-jerk reactions, that I sometimes write about here, could become the inspiration for someone’s strength, and I sincerely hope that’s not the case with the reader whose comment I shared above. In a perfect world, each of us would live consciously at all times, choosing in an instant to react in a constructive, gracious, and even loving way. I believe that should always be our goal. Whether it’s possible to achieve, given how flawed human beings are, is up for debate.
But, as Loretta aptly points out, the answer is not to meet evil with evil. It never has been, and it never will be.
And if I may take that thought one step further: We have no control over how some people react toward us, but we sure have control over how we respond to it. In the end, that's what sets us apart from them.