Today's post is by special guest blogger Keith Wilcox of Almightydad. Keith is probably one of the most well-rounded bloggers I know, and his site reads more like a webzine given the broad depth of topics he covers. This means he's also one of the most intelligent I know as well. As it states in his blog's moniker, "Opinionated Since 1974," Keith isnot afraid to share his thoughts, but he does so in a way that is convincing and thorough, not necessarily all up in your grill. But Keith not only writes, he's a full-time stay-at-home dad who home schools his sons. Honestly I don't know how he does it all, not to mention how he will pop up on a number of other blogs where he is sure to to leave an insightful comment. Keith's post today on courage is indicative of the quality of his work.
Be Courageous. You'll Regret it if You're Not
I read somewhere recently, and I can't remember where or I'd say it, that one of the top regrets people have when they get older is not having been courageous when they were younger. I'd go further than that. I think most people regret being wimps at any age but they don't readily admit it. But, older people do probably try harder to be genuine than younger people; they realize the brevity of life and make the decision to be genuine in the interest of efficiency. After all, there's no sense in wasting time with hiding your feelings for the sake of peace when you know your opportunities to be true to yourself are becoming fewer by the day. Courage can mean a lot of things. It can be the willingness to stand up to a bully or the ability to speak one’s mind when everybody else is opposed. Courage requires knowing yourself and acting on your conviction, or at least not acting against your conviction.
It's not About Rudeness:
Have you ever been forced to endure listening to someone who tells you all the many ways they think you're a bad parent? We all have. What's your reaction? Do you politely listen, waiting for them to go away; then, once they've left, turn to your nearest friend to unload all your frustrations? I'll bet, after you've finished gossiping about it, you still feel wronged. Wouldn't it have been better to have stopped that person while they were still talking? It would be much more satisfying, albeit scary, to say it to their face than to your friend. If need be you could have turned away from them or asked them to stop talking about it. It's not rude to disagree with someone. But, people choose passivity because they're concerned about keeping the peace regardless of what they have to sacrifice. And they regret it every time. Passive aggressive is still aggressive, and it's not healthy. Built up aggression is worse than politely saying what's on your mind at the moment of confrontation.
You Only Live Once:
When you’re young it's easy to say “Next time I'll do it differently.” But as time goes on, and that promise remains unfulfilled, the regret piles up. A few years ago I saw an able bodied person pull into a handicapped spot (no sticker) in front of an old guy who was going for the same spot (he had a purple heart license plate and everything). He had to go two rows back and, when he opened the car door, his wife came around and held his elbow to help him up. When I saw that I decided to speak up. When the healthy woman came out of the store I confronted her. I told her she should be ashamed of herself. I also pointed out the man's car who she had displaced. What was her reaction? She said she had every right to park in the handicapped spot because her shoulder hurt and she couldn't carry her bags very far. I called bullshit on her. I didn't stop her while she unloaded a string of profanities on me for “getting into her business” or when she drove away. But I did walk away knowing I'd done the right thing. I also have a suspicion that that woman will think twice before stealing another handicapped spot. If I had not said anything I would have had to tell myself “Next time.”
What About Your Kids?
You aren't a superhero, but you are to your kids, or at least you should be. If you can't be proud of yourself then your kids will see that and learn from it. Even if you've become accustomed to acquiescence, do you really want that for your kids? We all want our kids to grow up to be stronger than we are. I want my kids to have all of my strengths, plus their own, and none of my weaknesses. As a result I force myself to take actions, in the interest of doing the right thing and setting an example, that otherwise I might not. I've seen several people change their personalities when they have kids. They must have gone through the same epiphany. They have kids and suddenly realize the best way to teach them is by example, and their “Next Time” attitudes fly right out the window. It takes strength to do that for your kids, to completely change because you know it's right. It would be nice to see every parent reach the same conclusion.
We live in the modern world in a country of relative peace and prosperity. Speaking up isn't going to get you thrown in jail. There's no risk of persecution except from friends and peers. Nobody's asking you to save Anne Frank or protest in Tienanmen square. I'm making a simple request to speak up when you've been insulted and tell people what you really think. Practice politeness but also don't be wishy washy. We look at that guy standing in front of the tank in Tienanmen square and think maybe we could do that too. But, if you can't ask your neighbor to stop letting his dog crap in your yard, how are you going to ever stand in front of a tank? You can keep telling yourself, “Oh, it's not that important.” But, isn't it really because you're afraid? There's no shame in admitting it, just in not learning from it.
Courage is not something that comes easily. To be courageous comes with a degree of risk, and some people are averse to risk. Yes, there's a chance you'll get a broken nose. There's a chance everyone you know will go against you and you'll lose friends. Confrontation is assured when you determine to be courageous. You'll take a stance while others fade. It's easy to go with the pack, to join the mob. It's hard to say no. Take heart in knowing that most people exist as tools of the mob, too afraid to be themselves and too afraid to be different. They're against you out of fear. They'll regret it when they look back on their lives from old age. Our lives are too short to waste on appeasement. There are times to ignore minor slights and there are times that confrontation is necessary. We all know which is which.