It’s important to stand up for what you believe in, but what happens when you do that and it makes no difference to a situation? When no matter what you say or do, you just can’t make any headway? Well, utter, seething anger and frustration usually ensue, but without any kind of progress or closure, it can be hard to move past those into a calmer place where resolution can be gained.
In some situations, shutting down and walking away really is the only option. Here are a few examples:
Trying to convince an ignorant bigot that they’re wrong.
When someone is really set on the idea that a person of a particular culture, religion, or gender is inferior for some particular reason, it’s pretty much impossible to change their minds.
Let’s choose this example, as it’s a conversation that really happened. At a family get-together, a person who has married into the family (let’s call him Jim) proclaims loudly that the Holocaust never happened because (and this is an official quote): “every time they make a documentary about it, they always use the same pictures.”
…right. Okay, so that was one of the most inane, ignorant comments imaginable and most people would be horrified to even think such a thing, let alone spew it forth. When asked to elaborate on his reasoning, he’ll just shrug and maintain his stance. Those thousands of Auschwitz survivors with arm tattoos? “All fake. Part of a conspiracy.”
At this point, the only options are to bludgeon him with a toaster – which really isn’t worth the jail time – or to walk away. You will never, ever convince him that he’s wrong, and trying to do so will just sap your time, energy, and any faith you have left in humanity. Just take a deep breath, accept that he’s an idiot (to put it politely), and walk away.
Getting your parents to acknowledge that you’re an adult.
Most parents have difficulty accepting the fact that their grown-up offspring are capable, responsible adults in their own right, and will forever see them as their “children.” It doesn’t matter if you’re on your second marriage, you have seven kids of your own, two mortgages, and a pacemaker… you’re still their BABY, and always will be.
The thing about parents is that they don’t just see us at the age we are now, but as they remember us when we were little. Sure, they might see you as a capable doctor, attorney, engineer, or designer one moment, but in the next, they’ll remember when you were a chubby-faced infant snuggling up to a plushie bear and demanding a bedtime story. It can be really difficult for them to let go of the past and acknowledge you as the fully capable adult you are now.
That seems to be even harder for parents of people who have chosen not to have kids of their own. By not seeing you take that particular rite of passage and become parents in your own right, they don’t see you in what they can relate to as a typical adult role. They may interpret this behavior as an extended adolescence, which is frustrating beyond measure.
When and if your parents treat you as though you were a child, please try to remember that it’s unlikely that they’re doing so with any malice.
Asking a friend to be objective about their horrible partner/spouse.
So, your friend’s husband propositions you while she’s getting ready to go out, but if you tell her that straight out, she’ll lose her sh*t at you and accuse you of trying to break up her relationship. Or perhaps your mate is dating a total ho-bag whom you’ve seen out with half a dozen other guys behind his back, but he’s totally in love with her and will cut you out of his life if you trash-talk her. What can you do?
No matter how tactfully you approach your friend about their partner, you will be seen as the “bad” party, and they will always side with the one they’re involved with. When someone’s in love, their partner can do no wrong… and even if the initial bloom of love has worn off, loyalty can then step in so they make sure they have their partner’s back.
In situations where you really dislike your friend’s partner, it’s usually best to shut up about it. You don’t have to pretend to love them, but don’t go out of your way to let everyone know how much you despise them. Do this and you’ll lose your friend before they ever break off with their partner.
The one exception to this is if you know for a fact that their partner is being abusive. In that situation, you may have to be more proactive in helping them get away from an ugly situation. Just be prepared that even if you are able to help them, they’ll still defend their partner, and you may still emerge as the asshole.
Attempting to inform someone that your religion is more “right” than theirs.
Okay, if you even think of doing this, you’re a narrow-minded piece of work. Just stop.
It’s one thing to have a discussion about religion, in which you and a person of a different faith are exchanging ideas about philosophy, ethics, even the very nature of existence itself, but if you’re so arrogant as to believe that your religion is somehow better or more real or valid than someone else’s, you need to give yourself a time out and go sit in a walk-in freezer or something.
Not only is it immensely disrespectful to try to convince another person that their faith is wrong, it’s also a pointless argument. What purpose could that conflict serve other than to amuse you on some sadistic level? If a person is following a particular faith, then they obviously do so for a reason. There are many different religions, all of which draw people to them for any number of reasons, and none of them are any more “true” or “right” than any other. Period.
If you disagree with a particular person’s faith because its tenets differ greatly from your own, or because you have contempt for that religion in general, just accept that they think differently than you do, and walk away.
Preferably without rolling your eyes or smirking.
When it comes to arguments, ask yourself why it’s important for you to “win.” If the person concedes by telling you that yeah, sure, okay, you’re right, does that make you happy? Do you feel validated in your opinion because someone just nodded and smiled to shut you up?
Ask yourself why you’re arguing with this person to begin with. It’s almost impossible to change another person’s mind, and ultimately, what is to be won? Keep in mind that it’s better to be kind than to be right, and if it’s so important to you that your opinion is acknowledged to be right, then the problem is unlikely to lie with the other person involved.
Have you experienced any of these first hand? Leave a comment below and share your stories with us and others.
Catherine Winter is a writer, art director, and herbalist-in-training based in Quebec’s Outaouais. She has been known to subsist on coffee and soup for days at a time, and when she isn’t writing or tending her garden, she can be found wrestling with various knitting projects and befriending local wildlife.