I want to be on everyone’s good side.
To be liked by everyone. To be accepted.
To be understood.
And since I grew up wanting to be understood, I’ve always approached listening to people to understand where they’re coming from.
So I could empathize with them.
I came to understand people’s viewpoints this way. Not from relating to my own experience, but through a blank canvas as they shared their own aspects of life. Each word they spoke added color — spots and speckles flowed out of their voice, painting into scenes of them churning through stormy waters, flying above joyous mountains, or soaring far into the dreamy sky. And I tried to capture that image with as much accuracy as I could — trying to catch a glimpse of the other person’s life.
But with this empathy towards others, I would detach myself from my own values.
Stepping off my own platform of beliefs, I found myself treading uncharted waters to arrive at their line of thought. And though it was rewarding to understand someone, it was hard to try and live in line with them. It became even harder when two or three other people’s beliefs were added to the mix. Trying not to step on any toes, I found conflict to arise, nonetheless, whilst stubbing my own toes in the process.
Wanting to agree with everyone, I ended up agreeing with no one.
I realized that I cannot be agreeable to everyone. Because if I were to try to, my identity would not be based on what I believed, but rather by a collection of other people’s opinions they believed.
This resulted in passivity. And passivity is an action that results in no firm conclusion. My words had no weight, stretching out too thin in accommodation to have any mass.
I want to have a voice.
To have more weight with what I say.
For people to hear and understand my stance too.
But what should I do? How do I stand up for myself without simply defying others? How can I communicate my own values and stay true to my identity with clarity and respect?
This is where I must learn to speak with words filled with grace.
I cannot speak in anger or without patience. That itself will incite unnecessary conflict.
My point will also not come across clearly if I’m not able to stand at least a bit level-headed through my talk and in my mind. How many times have the words of an angry person reached the ears of others in a debate? (If I were to estimate, I’d say few.) Speaking with grace also requires myself not to take things personally. To not think of the worst possible scenario and realistically act with respect. I must learn to have patience, have self-control in my emotions, and express each statement I declare with love.
Of course, as I say all these things, I realize that I am not perfect.
I cannot drive the conversation in the correct direction always. I will not always be level-headed when speaking.
In fact, I will fail far more times than I succeed.
And once again, it goes back to trying to please everyone. I don’t think I can please everyone. There are always micro-moments that will irk or aggravate.
But, I must not give up.
I cannot raise my white flag in this life that I live. I desire to be the best I can for others. To love where I can, respect at all times necessary, but stand firm where my own values hold most importantly to me.
And in the areas I fail, I hope to give it to God.
As I shared before, I am not perfect. I realize the narrow scope I have in understanding another person’s circumstances. That itself multiplies in complexity the more people are introduced. I am unable to fully accommodate other’s desires in every given moment.
In those times, I must not rely on my own ability. Rather I must do my best for others while standing up for my own beliefs. Afterwards, for the things I cannot control I give to God, knowing that He has power over what I have no power over.
He brings peace where peace cannot be found.
He is able to enable the unable.
He stands firm in the moments I wrestle the most to stand firm for myself.
In the end, I find myself walking in this life filled with a pressure of fulfilling some expectation. But that expectation is not meant to fulfill man’s desires. It’s meant to fulfill God’s desires, which are abundant in love, mercy and righteousness.