I’m all for being nice. I think caring words and thoughtful actions are the bomb, rivaled only by unconditional love – the kind that extends to all people, not just a select few – and I firmly believe that everyone deserves to feel accepted and appreciated by those around them. Good is good, people. Good is very good.
But there’s a difference between being nice and being silent, at least from where I’m standing. There’s a difference between treating others with respect and eradicating all opinions so that others don’t feel slighted. If you say something nicely (because nice matters, remember?) and it offends me, who am I to tell you to shut up? When the pendulum swings the other direction – because it inevitably will – I hope you’ll return the favor and let me speak.
The thing is, quieting you doesn’t change or erase your opinion – it only makes me feel better about mine. Who am I to cut off your tongue because I don’t like what it has to say? And what does either of us gain by me doing so, other than an eternity of self-righteous (and dreadfully boring) silence?
I’m idealistic enough to dream of a world where conflicting viewpoints promote personal growth rather than petty controversy – where differing opinions don’t necessitate outlandish defense because they’re perceived as basic human nature rather than as threats – but I’m realistic enough to understand the impossibility that dream. As long as there are people there are egos and as long as there are egos there are opportunities to bruise them.
So what do I do? Do I shush your words so that mine maintain their illusion of perfection or do I let you speak your truth and wear my blemishes – brilliant reminders of my uniqueness – with unsurpassed pride?
My opinion is not the beach; it’s a tiny grain of sand buried amongst millions of others. Trying to eliminate the pebbles around me is not only impossible, it’s also impossibly sad, for a world without beaches – a world without voices – is really no world at all.