My mother and I have an ongoing dispute over the proper placement of silverware in the dishwasher. I always place my forks, spoons and knives in the dishwasher with the handles up. My mother places them in with the handles down, because she says the silverware gets cleaner that way. And perhaps they do, I tell her. But what happens after the dishwasher has run its cycle, and then I have to remove the silverware by placing my grubby little fingers on the parts of the spoons and forks that are supposed to go in people’s mouths? And isn’t it dangerous to handle the knives by the blades?
When I say this, my mother always nods and says, “That’s probably true.” But as soon as she thinks I’m not looking, she goes right on putting the silverware in the dishwasher with the handles down.
The correct way to load a dishwasher is a relatively small matter in the grand scheme of things, but I think our ongoing disagreement is a good illustration of a much bigger problem. Because most of us tend to believe that our way of doing things is the best way, and our way of thinking is the only way. And then we cause a whole lot of trouble by trying to convince everyone else that we’re right.
If you’ve ever had a “discussion” with someone who holds different views from you, especially on such sensitive topics as politics or religion, you know what I’m talking about. Those are two topics where people have never had much tolerance for disagreement. But even different beliefs in how we raise our children, how we run our households, how we celebrate holidays….heck, just about anything these days….can cause us to lose our tempers and lash out at those we think of as “other.”
I guess it’s just hard for us to accept that it’s not our place to tell everyone else what to think or how to act. It seems to be human nature to like our own way best, and to harbor the belief that the world would be such a better place if everyone else just “got with the program” and came around to our way of thinking. But it doesn’t work like that. Because the people who are different from us like their way best, too. And they also think that the world would be so much better if we would just wise up and agree with them.
The best thing we can do, I think, is to live our lives as best we can according to our own convictions, and to be very open about what we believe and why. And if someone else wants to share their beliefs with us, we can listen to what they have to say and really think about why we do or do not agree with them. Sometimes minds will be changed, but often they won’t. And that’s okay, because other people are allowed to be different. They really are.
So I will keep right on loading the silverware in my dishwasher with the handles up, and my mother will keep right on putting the handles down. And that’s fine, because either way, we’ll still end up with clean silverware.