A few years ago, I wrote a profile biography for a website. Later that night, while out with a friend, she reviewed it and loudly exclaimed, “You don’t like nature! You never want to go hiking with me.” I was hurt and embarrassed but didn’t say anything; I allowed the conversation to morph into other things. While I am sure my friend doesn’t even remember this exchange, I have never forgotten it. It’s a familiar pattern in my life. For as long as I can remember, people have proclaimed who and what I am. But are their perceptions true, or prejudice assumptions based on their limited understandings?

Our world is so polarized right now. People disagree and argue over the slightest thing. To me, arguing is toxic. I lived in a never-ending world of arguments when I was married. From being berated to not taking the “most efficient route” to spending hours arguing over my request that my spouse support me in the hospital while awaiting surgery. Apparently, he “didn’t want to agree outright, so he had to put up a fight.” I’m in the hospital? Why are we doing this? (Disclaimer, he did show up but was such an ass that four different nurses, and I just wanted him to leave again.) So when I tell someone that I don’t want to argue, and they argue with me that we’re not arguing, I am done.

This hasn’t always ended well, either. When I leave a conversation with the other person, I am accused of being childish, crazy, unhinged, manipulative, and any other manner of negative assaults upon my character. These often come from “friends and family.” I used to believe them, the horrible things the people around me said, but not anymore. I realize that there are people like me in the world; sensitive people that get their feelings hurt easily; compassionate people who don’t think it is funny to mock others, empathic people who cry at the thought of someone else’s pain. Growing up, I was told I needed to toughing up, yet this is as incorrect as insisting someone stay and continue an argument in the slim chance you can prove yourself right. If the other person has left the conversation, I think that ship has sailed.

We all need to learn to be more tolerant of others. You don’t have to agree with them, but you don’t have to argue with them either. I think we live in a world where we are so used to defending ourselves that we don’t realize when defense has turned into aggression. We assume the other person doesn’t understand what we’re trying to communicate, and perhaps they don’t. But there comes the point when we need to walk away from the conversation. If they didn’t understand the first time you explained it, they’re not going to understand the second or third time either. They’re set in their understanding of what you said, you did, or who you are; you’re not going to change their mind. They’re not your people.

I like nature. My friend failed to understand that I don’t like nature in the same way she does. I like to be in nature. I like to listen to the breeze, feel it caress my skin. I love the smell of pine in the air or to watch water cascade over the rocky terrain of a river on its way down the mountain. I simply like to be. She prefers never-ending movement. But hiking is not synonymous with nature. My version of nature is just as valid as hers. We need to stop expecting others to have the same thoughts, feelings, and understandings as we do. Either accept the person for who they are or gently let them go. As someone who has spent a lifetime struggling against the shackles imposed on me by others, I say it’s time to break free and be who you were meant to be! And if this provokes the demons of those around you, perhaps it times to find new people, people whose demons understand yours.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *