Around twenty years ago I told someone the smartest thing they had ever said to me was they didn’t understand what I was talking about.
When they asked me to explain I said it was the first time they hadn’t pretended to know more about everything than anyone else.
They immediately demanded an apology and when I refused said they would write me up and that it would follow me around for my entire career.
I told them it must be awful to let fear be their guiding principle in life and asked them if they really believed that one letter would derail my career.
Social Media & One Letter
I hadn’t thought about that moment for years and then I read a few stories about some of the things that have been happening on college campuses and thought about the Starbucks coffee cup controversy and it came back to me.
Came back because the guy who promised to write that letter told me I ought to worry about offending people and I said I would never fear being known for offending people because my opinion was different theirs.
We’re not talking about offending someone with racist terms/conversation or threats of violence here. It was a simple difference of opinion on how to do something, as benign as arguing about what direction the toilet paper should hang off of the roll.
And in the days before social media I couldn’t conceive of their being a way for a letter to follow me around forever, unless I stayed at the same company and I didn’t see it as being my final forever job.
Sunday afternoon I sat my teenager down and asked him what sorts of conversations they were having in school about the coming presidential elections, Syrian refugees, ISIS and terrorism.
I wanted to get a sense of what he thought and what approach his teacher and classmates were taking.
But more than anything else I wanted to remind him to never be afraid to challenge his own beliefs and to be willing to stand his ground.
I told him I had heard stories about college students demanding that they not be asked to discuss things they found to be offensive.
“Life isn’t always easy and sometimes you have to deal with hard stuff. You can’t ignore it and pretend it doesn’t exist. Sometimes the only way to get through those moments is to walk through crap. I don’t want fear and discomfort to prevent you from doing what needs to be done.”it must be awful to let fear be their guiding principle in lifeClick To Tweet
I don’t think we should go out of our way to offend others but I don’t see value in going out of our way to never offend others.
There is a middle ground that seems to be missing. A place that we keep missing because in our interest to never be exclusive we have lost the inclusive part that keeps the seesaw from swinging to one side or the other.
Don’t know if I have explained it well or not, that’s the challenge of writing well after midnight..
So let’s give it another crack and see if this makes more sense.
Some people say we can’t take any refugees and others say we have to take as many refugees as possible.
What I hear driving these conversations is fear. What seems to be missing is the middle ground where we say to each other that we disagree and try to come up with a compromise.
That unwillingness to talk about or ask for compromise is all over my Facebook feed. I keep reading about the 50,000 reasons people have used for unfriending people on Facebook.
Some of those have been legitimate but not all, some have been nothing more than anger because someone didn’t adhere to the right party lines.
That’s pretty sad, do you really want to live in an echo chamber.
I am not good at it.
I am not perfect, but I refuse to let fear be the guiding principle in my life.
It’s not just ok to disagree, it is important.
If you never challenge your beliefs you never grow.