Tag Archives: community

My opinion on opinions. Or something like that.

(This a complicated subject that has taken me an inordinate amount of time to write about.  Please forgive any bumbling and incoherent ideas here.  I’m a work in progress.)

I’m a bit riled up about something I keep hearing/seeing on the Internet:

“What other people think of you is none of your business.”

My response to this is, “Oh?  Really?”  I don’t know who said this (Frankly, I don’t  care), but this seems to be in response to that thing that happens when we worry about what other people think of us.  You know, that thing where you start making other people’s opinions more of a priority than your opinion.  As I was researching this statement, I ran across a blog post where a person stated that worrying about another’s opinion is encroaching on someone else’s property.  That’s an interesting notion, but I am not sure I completely agree.  My problem with this kind of statement is that it general enough for people to take too far in the wrong direction.

Having an opinion is part of being human.  You know, “I opinionate (I know, not really a word.  Just go with it.), therefore I am.” Or, something like that.

Here are some facts about opinions:

  • Opinions are like the Force.  There’s a light side, and a dark side.
  • There’s no such thing as a neutral opinion.
  • Opinions frequently smash together like atoms out of control.
  • Opinions can be either helpful, or non-helpful.
  • Helpful opinions can inform and uplift another person.
  • Non-helpful opinions can tear down and disenfranchise another person.
  • Everybody’s got a million of ’em.
  • Some of us (ahem) are more opinionated than others.
  • Some of us (again, ahem) share our opinions more frequently than others.

Need I say more?

The notion that other people’s opinion are none of my business because it’s their intellectual property seems like an overreaction to idea that another’s opinion shouldn’t define who you are.  Yes, only should define who you are.  Yes other’s opinions are just their opinions.  People do use them to hurt, control, and destroy other people.  Those opinions should be ignored, and are none of your business.  But those opinions aren’t the ones I am talking about.

I find  other people’s opinions of me helpful.  Even the bad opinions.  I tend to view other’s opinions as an object I can hold in my hand.  I can look at, ponder it’s meaning, and put it down on the nearest horizontal surface.  It matters to me what other people think of me.   Here’s why: if I am doing something that is a problem in my interpersonal interactions, I need to know so I can work on it.  I need to wonder what other people think of me, because there is always room to grow.  This part of the human need for social order.  We have to define our place, and our contribution to the society we live in.  If we are not actively contributing, or worse causing disruption in, to the society we belong to, we are limiting our capacity  to be fully part of that society.  One has to be discerning and honest about themselves to consider another’s opinion of them.  One needs to be willing to face their own weaknesses and downfalls.  One has to be humble enough to admit to the need for change.

So, don’t swing too far in the wrong direction.  Consider other’s opinions without taking them in and letting them run like schoolchildren with scissors waving frantically in the air.  Make them behave themselves and reveal truth to you.  Talk to those opinions and form your own conclusions.  Make good, honest changes in yourself based on those truths.  Let other’s opinions help to define how you react to the world.

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Even the Lone Ranger had Tonto…

Who else would roll his eyes, make comments, and point out the obvious if Tonto wasn’t there?

Even the Lone Ranger needed someone.

Yesterday I wrote about community and the need for being in the right community.  Today, I want to talk about the evil stepbrother of community: Isolation.

Isolation is a nasty, four-letter word in counseling.  Here is it’s definition (according to the American Oxford Dictionary):

isolation |ˌīsəˈlā sh ən|noun

  • the process or fact of isolating or being isolated : the isolation of older people.
  •  an instance of isolating something, esp. a compound or microorganism.
  •  [as adj. ] denoting a hospital or ward for patients with contagious or infectious diseases.
  • PHRASESin isolation without relation to other people or things; separately : environmental problems must not be seen in isolation from social ones.
  • ORIGIN mid 19th cent.: from isolate , partly on the pattern of French isolation.

I want to pay particular attention to the first meaning, “the process or fact of isolating, or being isolated…”  There is some action implied in that meaning.  In fact, the definition points two separate process “isolating” and “being isolated”.  The first one we do to ourselves, the second, others do to us.

Just recently, I entertained the idea of isolating myself from my community about a particularly painful problem in my life.  I have felt judged (in my opinion unfairly), I have felt like people didn’t get my pain, I have felt like people were too eager to move me from my grief into a “happier” place without considering the cost of such a move.  I just haven’t felt supported in my struggle the way I feel I need support.  I love these people so I have no desire to separate from them in any significant way, but I just didn’t want to talk about this particular problem anymore because it is too painful to feel about the people I love.  It is easier to withdraw and go off by my lonesome on this subject.

Or is it?

Let’s consider the cost of isolating myself.  Even though I feel like I have been failed by my community on this problem, withdrawing entirely means that I have absolutely no support at all.  Nothing.  NO one can pray for me.  I WILL not have an ear from anyone.  I WILL struggle alone (for you Christians out there, I know I am not truly alone.  But I am without people which runs contrary to God’s desire for all of us).  I will have no one.  And, I have to ask myself if isolating myself from my friends is worth the price of not feeling the pain of relationship?  Because even the best of relationships are sometimes painful, especially when people disagree.  In all honesty, I have to say, “No.”  Being alone has never been nor never will be a great idea.

Isolating allows you to lie to yourself.  You have nothing to compare your point of view to.  Isolating means never having contact with another person.  Never feeling the warmth of their presence and care.  Always feeling alone and depressed.  No one will be there to throw you a rope when you most need one.  Isolating sometimes means death.

Being in relationships with people is a good thing.  And,  I’m not talking about just  surface relationships.  I talking about down-in-the-mud, helping-you-fight-the-good-fight kind of relationship.  These kinds of people  have your back when you are weak.  They tell you the truths you need to hear, but maybe don’t want to.  They bring you casseroles during traumas, and take you to Starbuck’s and listen to you drone on and on about this, that, or the other thing.  They pray for you.  They tell you to stop whining and act like a grown-up.  They can be there for you.

In my case, it is my responsibility to speak up and say how I feel about other’s behavior.  It is my responsibility to set boundaries with other people.  It is no one else’s responsibility but mine.

We need other people.  We need truth-tellers in our lives.  We need fellow mountain climbers.  We need someone to hand us tissues when we cry.  We need people to shine a little light in our darkness.

So reach out find your Tonto…

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So tell me, do you have a Tonto?

I need you, and you need me. A post about community.

I didn’t have time to write on Friday because I was going away for a couple of days.  However, I looked to The Gypsy Mama for inspiration because she does this wonderful exercise every Friday called Five Minute Friday.  She gives us a one-word prompt, we write for 5 minutes with out editing, backtracking, or straining our brains too hard.  Her word last week was “community”.  I thought that this was an appropriate word for my theme here, particularly because community is such an essential part of overcoming anything.

Forgive me while I write for longer than 5 minutes, edit, backtrack, and strain my brain on your behalf.

People don’t live in a vacuum.  You were born to two parents (whether you lived with them or not), numerous relatives, people lived in your neighborhood, went to your schools, played in your backyard, and so on.  You were born to be around people.  You were born to a community.

Communities can be good, bad, indifferent, caring, insufferable, long-suffering, unexciting, thrilling, dangerous, safe, in any mix of characteristics.  Generally, community has some unifying characteristic that other people tend to use to describe that community.  Communities can be any size or shape.  Communities are the people with whom you spend the majority of your time.

When you are born and under your parents care, you don’t have any choices in the kind of community in which you live.  When you get older, you get to choose.   Sometimes we choose the opposite of what we lived with as a child, sometimes the same.  The right kind of community can help you flourish, too much of the wrong kind of community can stunt your emotional growth until you become a dry-husk of a person.

For myself, community has been one the most important aspects of overcoming all the crap I needed to overcome.  People around me sometimes brought things up to my line sight were I could recognize them for what they were.  Other people listened to me.  Some counseled me.  Thoughtfully chosen people prayed for me. Some told me hard truths, while other’s helped  me pick up the pieces and let me cry on their shoulders.  These people helped to shape my character into what it is today.

I  need community.

And so do you.

Think about who you spend your time with.  Are these people helpful?  Are they honest with you?  Are they nice to  you?  Do you feel good about yourself fairly regularly around your community?  Will they be there for you when  you fall down?  Think about it.  If you cannot answer yes to these questions, then perhaps it’s time to make a change.  Perhaps it’s time to seek out a more loving, nurturing, fellowship of people.

Changing from what you know to something new is difficult.  But, no one ever said that change was easy.  It’s hard.  It can feel lonely at first.  It can be scary.  It can be frustrating.  It can be…any number of things.  But, these things don’t have to be reasons not to try.  They are only temporary obstacles to go around, over, or through.

You NEED people around you to be supportive.  You NEED people to be honest with you.  You NEED help sometimes.  You NEED good community.

Go ahead, look for it.  Don’t be shy.

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Tell me about your community…