What do you think about your relationship with the practice of biting one’s tongue? I ask that question in that way for a very specific reason because I’d want to know the relationship between you and that concept. If you were to consider it as though the concept itself were a living being, would you be friends with it or not?
Do you always bite your tongue or do you openly express every single thought you’ve ever had? Recognizing these two options as the polar opposites on the “verbal restraint spectrum,” where do you fit between them? Personally, I find that the older I get, the easier it is to keep my mouth shut, contrary to what some may say otherwise. I’ve become especially attentive to noticing whether or not anything I might have to add would actually change anything.
Frankly, I don’t want to waste my breath unless it’s useful to do so.
Of course, that is my intended practice. It’s not always easy to follow. Sometimes, when I see something unloving or unknowledgeable online, I feel compelled to “correct” them. But does that way of thinking about it, or approaching a debate situation as a form of “schooling” someone, actually help? Instinctively, I would think not. But practically, I wonder what other options we have.
It is our duty to speak out when we see injustice occurring, whether to ourselves or someone else. It is our human obligation to be as knowledgeable as possible about other ideas, traditions and philosophies. It is a commandment to love one another as we are meant to love ourselves.
So, what is the responsibility of that love? If we expect to participate in it, what is our job in that? The fact is, we must speak uncomfortable truth to any power that seeks to cause division among us. That’s not a time for silence. We must speak in our own defense, and sometimes that of others, when confronted. We must also listen to the charges against us for any seed of truth within them. Be humble. In these times, we must speak less and listen more. Because much of what’s occurring these days would be greatly helped by a little more listening.
We don’t know what we don’t know. Be open to finding it out.
Why do we feel we must always chime in? Why do we feel that we must always add our two cents worth of commentary to a contentious debate, or waste our breath on fighting old, outdated ideas that are already on their way to extinction with or without our help? Some issues don’t need to be debated as much as to be deemed irrelevant. They’re not worth our time.
I’d guess about 75% of the debates and conflicts we witness on a daily basis are not worth our spit. They’re not worth our stress or sleeplessness. They don’t deserve our attention, which only serves to prolong their existence. Chime out on them rather than in. Scroll past.
There’s a line in the sand somewhere, beyond which are things we need not debate any longer or are just the ramblings of sad, old ideologies that have long since lost their ground. On this side of the line remains everything we must attend to, everything we must speak to. Don’t let your ego decide where that line is. You don’t have to be seen as correct in other people’s eyes, epecially those that remain closed. If their opinion is unloving, consider first if you have the power to persuade them otherwise. If you don’t, gauge if it’s worth your energy to say something. Or perhaps the middle ground is attempting to share your opinion as though it was a show-and-tell exercise rather than a debate, argument or competition.
No one needs to win a show-and-tell — it’s just sharing. Religion, as well as politics, could benefit from a bit more of that.
The point here is to conserve your energy for the future. Put your attention on facing forward, not back. Be a wind in the sail of progress. Be more careful about weighing in on a subject that isn’t helped by your presence, or that is already being adequately well-argued by someone else. Save your mojo for the discussions, debates and challenges that serve as the gateways to our future.
The future is as malleable as it ever has been in human history. Anything is possible now. Things that have harmed us from the shadows are now being seen in the light of day in ways we’ve never experienced before. Be encouraged by that. Assume there’s benevolence at work here.
Preserve yourself from stabbing at dinosaurs. Their time is limited, and you both may as well go about your business in peace. Standing back far enough to look clearly and broadly at the timeline of human history, it’s clear their fate is already written. Your continued confrontation only falsely sustains their existence. Turn the other cheek from them.Remember that your attention alone has power. Use it to attend to something higher.
Wil Darcangelo, M.Div., is the minister at First Parish UU Church of Fitchburg and of First Church of Christ Unitarian in Lancaster, and producer of The UU Virtual Church of Fitchburg and Lancaster on YouTube. Email email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @wildarcangelo. His blog, Hopeful Thinking, can be found at www.hopefulthinkingworld.blogspot.com.