Friday, January 17, 2020

Mountains Out of Molehills: Compassion vs. Ignorance

Mountains Out of Molehills is a feature here at Somewhere Only We Know that zeroes in on political, religious, etc statements made by authors, publishers, etc that really don't have anything to do with the overall story, plot, or character growth of a book (or other medium).

I introduced this feature concept in this Discussions Only We Know post.

In Let Me List the Ways by Sarah White, main character Mackenzie has Type I Diabetes. While I very much enjoyed this as a conflict and major story point because I'm not very familiar with the disease, I had a few issues with Mackenzie's attitude and comments/thoughts that she made throughout the book. Here goes.

It is impossible for every human to have an awareness and knowledge of every disease, condition, disorder, etc. Typically, unless you've gone to medical school and become a doctor, you likely don't know most conditions, diseases, cancers, or disorders even exists. Yet in today's society of awareness, everyone wants everyone else to "be more aware" of XYZ condition/illness/etc. Well I hate to tell you guys, but this just isn't possible.

Don't get me wrong. Being compassionate towards others, trying to put yourself in their shoes, and wanting to understand are great. We need to be this way. When we come across someone who has a condition, illness, etc that we do not know much about we should do what we can to be kind and compassionate toward them. But isn't this the way we should just generally treat people anyway?

But if we find ourselves in the situation where we have the illness, condition, situation, disease, etc that others know nothing about, it isn't their responsibility to avoid frustrating us with their ignorance. Our responsibility is to manage our reactions to others and handle our emotions appropriately. We cannot control others. We can only control ourselves. We cannot keep them from knowing what might or might not be offensive to us. We cannot download them with all of the information concerning our experience and situation. As a matter of fact, even if we could it would still only be our experience and someone else who might have the exact condition that we do has processed their feelings in an entirely different way and an entirely different set of questions or statements sets them off.

This goes beyond medical conditions. I specifically remember reading a blog post by an acquaintance of mine who lost her 6 week old son to SIDS. Her post was essentially about what not to say to her. And my own brother made this comment concerning some "advice" he's been routinely given for his current job situation. Feeling this way isn't uncommon. We all have things that others say to us periodically that just don't make sense or are offensive. But the point is, this is our responsibility to handle. It isn't the job of others to never offend us. To never frustrate us. To never say things that might hurt our feelings. No. Because that's just not possible. No one else in this world has ever had the exact same experiences that you've had while matched with your own personal way of thinking. So it is each our own duty to manage our emotions about the comments made about us, to us, or concerning our illness, circumstances in life, or struggles that we may or may not being going through.

In an ideal world, none of us would ever be hurt or offended by the things others say to us or about us. But I hate to break it to you, but this is not an ideal world. And pretending it to be so isn't helping anyone. Instead of pointing the blame on others to treat us better, perhaps we need to accept responsibility for casting aside the negative, offensive, or ignorant comments from others. (I say this as someone who has suffered miscarriages and difficulty conceiving children and have had others ask me questions or make comments about pregnancy or having children or growing our family.)

I'll never forget being at work one day when I was in my early twenties and telling a co-worker that he was being a jerk. He not so politely told me that my opinion of him didn't matter to him in the slightest because I wasn't in his inner circle. I wasn't someone that he cared about on a personal level so why should he care about what I thought of him. This blew my mind. I couldn't imagine someone not caring about my opinion...not because my opinion is so special, but because I cared about everyone's opinion of me. Once I really processed his thoughts, I felt this weight lifted off of me. Of course, I don't set out to purposefully offend others, but ultimately what others think of me doesn't define me. Now if my close friends and family think I'm being a jerk or that I need to change my attitude or the way I'm behaving then I seriously need to reconsider myself.

Remember that famous Gandhi quote about being the change you wish to see? That's the approach we have to take in situations like this. When we can't change others, the person we can change is ourselves. We can refuse to be offended by other's ignorance and lack of knowledge of our circumstances, and we can be the example of showing kindness and compassion to others in situations that we do not understand.

What do you guys think? Are you over how quickly everyone is offended? And over the most ridiculous, impossible to control things? Or do you think everyone should try to have all knowledge of all situation and diseases, and potential circumstances that someone might find themselves in? Let me know!

1 comment:

  1. I agree, I think people get way too offended by everything these days! Many people are in the habit of oversharing, but then don't want the consequences that may come along with that (people disagreeing or criticizing them). They get mad if you respond, but they also get mad if you don't respond or ask them any questions, etc Sometimes people genuinely just don't know what to say or that they may be saying something offensive.