I’m not the sort of person who courts controversy. In fact, it’s usually something that I avoid at all costs. No one can run away from an argument quicker than I can, and I usually read people well enough to know what they do and do not want to hear me say. Yes, there are times when I slip up and blurt out something that gives great offense. But that’s usually when I’m talking to my husband or my kids, and can’t resist the urge to offer a bit of motherly or wifely advice that is most certainly not wanted. In general, I’ve always had great confidence in my ability to avoid offending people or starting an unwanted argument.
Until recently, that is.
I first noticed the change when the Covid-19 virus showed up, followed by the shelter at home orders. I quickly realized that sharing my opinion on the subject was a risky thing to do, even when I intended my words to be comforting or reassuring. I also realized that there were times when my own nerves were so raw that I wasn’t willing or even able to silence my true opinion and offer up the words that someone else wanted to hear. The time had come, it seemed, when sometimes silence was the best response I could give.
And when parts of our country began a gradual lifting of the quarantine restrictions, the situation only became worse. People had very strong opinions on the subject, and understandably so. What was harder to understand was the absolute intolerance that many people had for anyone who didn’t absolutely share their opinion. Once again, silence seemed to be the safe response.
Then came the murder of George Floyd, which triggered the nation-wide protests that have been going on for the past couple of weeks. The news and social media is full of images of peaceful protests, both large and small, as well as images of mob violence. And of course everyone has an opinion about it all, which is normal. Sadly, many people are also convinced that their own opinion and is the only proper one and that anyone who thinks differently deserves to be treated like garbage.
I’m not sure how we have come to this, but I am sure I don’t like it. Our country is dealing with some very real and very hard issues right now, at a time when most everyone’s nerves are basically shot from being quarantined for weeks. I get that it’s much easier to lash out at someone that to try, even for a second, to see things from someone else’s point of view. But I also know that there’s only so much hate and nastiness that the world can take.
I don’t want to live in a world where I have to be afraid of people who are different from me. I don’t want to hesitate before I push the “like” button on a Facebook post because I’m afraid someone who disagrees with that post might be upset. I want to be considerate of other people’s feelings, but I don’t want to remain silent solely out of fear of the response I’ll get if I dare to say what I really think.
Which means I have, basically, two choices. I can live in fear of offending people who are all too ready to be offended, or I can find the courage to be my genuine self and risk being attacked for it. And I’ve decided to go with the second choice. Because if I want to live in a world where people really are allowed to be true to themselves, then I have to be willing to be true to myself first.