As a lifelong amiable individual, I have always actively avoided confrontation at all costs. Its been something which I’ve always shied away from, but I don’t think that it’s healthy to avoid it 100% of the time. The root of my passivity has always been a fear of backlash. Letting fear dictate your life is entirely unhealthy and silences your voice in the world. When I started this blog, my intention was to share my views and opinions regardless of how they were viewed. In doing so, I’m not striving be a senseless provocateur, but rather give the world an authentic view of myself. To me, authenticity seems like a much better goal than trying to make everyone happy by not taking a stand.
You likely won’t (and shouldn’t) agree with me on everything. If you do, I’ve successfully hypnotized you, and your loved ones want the real you back. Not everyone will agree with who you are or the choices you make, and this may form friends and enemies. Having said that, you will learn who aligns themselves with you and who decides to alienate themselves with you. This is the natural course of authenticity, as the more different from others you become, the more others will not align with you. Confrontation allows you to stand your ground and fully express who you are while staying true to your values and sense of self. When you become the captain of your own ship, you don’t take kindly to those who wish to take the wheel and try to steer it in a direction you hadn’t intended.
Growing up, I can think of distinct scenarios in which people have singled me out simply because they thought I was annoying or they didn’t like me because I was heavy, and because of that, I was harassed. One moment in particular which sticks out in my mind is from high school. I was harassed by someone (whose identity will remain anonymous) because of simply who I was. One day on the bus back from school, my friends and I were laughing and conversing; speaking somewhat loudly. This person, who was sitting behind me, and started calling me a faggot for no particular reason. I didn’t know him at all, and this certainly wasn’t warranted or the least bit joking. I largely brushed it off, and did nothing about it. Looking back at this, I know that I should have stood up for myself. I should have verbally or physically confronted him or alerted the bus driver or the dean of students, but I did nothing. When you choose not to stand up for yourself and protect your own innocence or the innocence of others, you empower those who abuse and those who harass to continue their malicious practices unscathed. I conceded to their harassing quips and by extension, consented to them and gave them validation. When you don’t stand up for yourself, you allow others to define who you are.
Even recently, when I went to a bar with a couple of friends, a woman who at this point was belligerently drunk, said that “I looked like I needed a man bra”. As someone who has always been picked on for his weight growing up, this infuriated me. I was close to doing something, but realized that nothing good would come out of the situation, and left. That evening had me fuming mad, emblazoned with ire and simultaneously disenchanted with society for producing people who attack innocent people. Nobody has the right to talk to you in a demeaning way which makes you feel like an anomaly or a freak. Whether you decide to take action into your own hands or report them to the proper authority figure, something needs to be done when you are wronged. The possibility of no confrontation happening ends as soon as someone puts you down and directly confronts you.
Standing up for myself is not something I’ve ever been particularly good at, and is a largely new concept to me. Throughout my childhood, I was always encouraged to stand up for myself in theory, but often not in practice. Whenever I had a disagreement with my father, he would talk at me, often never letting me express my feelings, opinions or concerns. Although he was the one who often told me to stand up for myself, he was also the one who didn’t give me an avenue to stand up for myself or allow me to develop a voice of my own. Even though I’m not a parent (so you can take my opinion with a grain of salt if you so choose), please listen to your kids. Doing so gives them a voice and a sense of self. It lets them know that they can stand up for themselves and gives them a safe environment for doing so. Blatant disrespect should not be tolerated by both children and parents, and both should be able to hold each other accountable for wrongdoings. Life can be a depressing, lonely and confusing place, and by acknowledging how someone else feels, you make it a slightly better place.
Trading an eye for an eye might be a little extreme, but I’ll be damned if anyone takes my eye for no good reason. As a child who subscribed to Christianity, passivity and docility were encouraged and rewarded. By turning the other cheek, what do you do other than empower the abuser? Why should the innocent not be allowed to stand up for themselves? Although I’ve never been in a physical altercation, there have been opportunities which have presented themselves for physical altercations which could have helped me grow my character and help me know what it feels like to stand up for myself, and by extension, something bigger than myself.
When you stand up for yourself, you gain confidence and learn to defend the inherent goodness within yourself. Doing so allows you to love yourself to a higher degree, and I know far too many people who hate themselves or view themselves through a negative lens. In a culture which constantly makes you feel like you’re not valuable or complete, learning to become your own advocate is difficult. When you’re told that the things that will make you whole don’t end up meeting those needs, you’re left to take matters into your own hands. By the time most people realize that only they can be their own advocate, they’ve already undergone a lifetime of people telling them who they are without actually learning who they are.
Confrontation is not always necessary and I think it should be reserved for moments in which discussion fails. Having said that, discussion and conversation are always the best tools for settling disputes and grievances, but this requires mutual respect and understanding. Through this respect, you are able to listen to someone and put yourself in their shoes, effectively allowing you to view the world from a different perspective. In my eyes, discussion is the best form of standing up for yourself. This way you can simultaneously be your own advocate while caring about others. Standing up for yourself has always seemed like the antithesis of caring for others to me, but now I’ve come to see it differently. When you stand up for yourself, you are caring for yourself. When you care for yourself, you are better suited to care for others and stand up for injustices.
Knowing when to confront or engage in discussion obviously involves some tact and varies largely on a situational basis. Both of these modalities of expressing opinions involve expressing your concerns and both seek to find a resolution. Which one you decide to use will largely depend on who you are and what you value. Having said that, I’m trying to value confrontation more since it’s been a foreign concept to me. I guess if I had to boil all of these words down into a pithy statement, it would be:
Don’t be a jerk to other people
Don’t let other people be jerks to you.
can confrontation and discussion exist at the same time or are they polar opposites? I’m not entirely sure. Is the world chaotic and inherently evil or ordered and inherently good? Maybe one day I’ll know. Until then, I’ll do my best to be kind to myself and others and try to make the world a better place in the progress. What I do know, and have known for a long time, is that Daniel Woodbury is a tool*.
*Daniel Woodbury is my friend and that last sentence was meant as a joke. The rest of this blog post was largely serious.
Those are my thoughts, What are yours?