I’m cringing as I post this. I’m cringing because I know, sure as getting spaghetti on a white sweater, that as soon as this posts, someone is going to do something to hurt my feelings. It’s the nature of the beast. Blogging is like waiving a flag at trouble and saying, “I think I’m the expert on this, come find out!”
And to heighten the odds, I’m a girl.
But, regardless, while I have other ideas for blogs, the rest of them seem to need a little more runway. So here I go.
I’ve heard sensitivity called a virtue. And maybe it is. Maybe it is the one virtue that needs to go find all the lost virtues and trade places with them. Or maybe it just needs some major dilution–like one part sensitivity to twenty parts real life.
One of the best pieces of advice I was ever given was this: Be very hard to offend.
Unfortunately, I was well into my twenties before I understood the wisdom of that simple sentence. I cried a lot of worthless tears. For myself.
There are a few things in this world worth crying over. Worth fighting over. Worth agonizing over. Christmas cards are not among them. Birthday parties are not among them. Who says “Hi!” to you on the way in and out of church is not among them. Facebook is not among them.
If there are two ways to interpret something and one is highly offensive and the other is a reasonable explanation, choose to believe the reasonable explanation. Practice it on the little stuff.
Without trying to be demeaning–the good folks of Ferguson would have saved themselves a lot of precious hours of sleep if they had just followed that simple principle. Mind you, I’m not saying that racial prejudice isn’t real and tragic, just that behavior like what we saw contributed nothing to the cause of justice. Frankly, most white people like most black people. And those that don’t aren’t the least bit swayed by looting and protesting.
While I’m on the subject of race, Condoleezza Rice came to mind. She grew up in segregated Birmingham–the south of the south. Her family knew what prejudice was. They knew they had to work harder to gain respect and so they did. They did work hard and they did gain respect.
In her book, she recounts a time (after moving to Colorado) when a potential landlord turned her family down citing the noise from her grand piano that would disturb the neighborhood. The Rice family was convinced it was actually because they were black. And they were furious.
But it worked both ways. Not every black girl gets the opportunities Condoleezza got–internships, fellowships, professorships. But I have to believe from her story that she got more attention than she would have if she had been white. People were eager to have a bright, hardworking person on their team but being a black woman made her stand out in a crowd of bright, hardworking people.
And as it turned out, she changed her major from piano performance to foreign policy.
As life went on, Condoleezza must have developed some thicker skin. Because she took some hits. She took some hits as Provost of Stanford–even from the black students. She took even more hits as Secretary of State. Because who doesn’t hit on an attractive, single Secretary of State? Eligible bachelors. That’s about it.
The point here is that you can spend your life being overly sensitive–worrying about who likes you and who doesn’t and why. You can pull away from people and places and activities because there are people who don’t like you, don’t appreciate you, or don’t see eye to eye with you. And you can be miserable. That’s up to you.
But if you prefer to avoid the misery, I would encourage you to ask two questions: 1 is there another, reasonable explanation for what happened? And 2. Is this a hill worth dying on? (Or at least, worth crying on?) If the answers are yes, and no, then in the words of a famous princess, Let it go! Let it GO!
It’s up to you–you can spend your life fighting with a landlord over a piano, and lose. Or fighting with the Soviet Union over freedom, and win.
Condoleezza recounts a time when she looked over at President Bush, then out the window of Air Force One and said: “I’m awfully glad I changed my major.”
And, for whatever reason, one landlord had missed out on responsible, history-making tenants. Her loss. It’s was time to forgive the piano incident.