I was part of a conversation recently about how different people deal with conflict and perceived wrongs. One of my neighbors described himself as a ‘doer’- someone who would argue a point aggressively to save face, and become violent when pressed. He said that he would argue a point even if he were wrong in order to avoid being pushed around or looked upon as weak.
My ‘doer’ neighbor then went on to describe myself and the other gentleman present as ‘talkers’ who used words to assert and defend ourselves, and always tried to make sure we had the moral high ground. While the other gentleman agreed to my neighbor’s assessment, I remained quiet and thought about this.
I disagree with him. I talk because I try to be an ‘un-doer’. Conflict represents wasted energy, heightened emotions (which harsh my mellow), and lost opportunities for mutual gain. When I talk something out, generally, I make concessions to salvage a relationship. Losing one argument is worth saving a friendship, worth peace with my neighbors, and no big deal in the face of all the opportunities association with someone can bring.
However, even in making concessions, something has been lost, someone has been disturbed, and it will ever be part of the sum of someone’s experiences with me, effecting their future decisions.
Ideally, I am a ‘non-doer’. Any disagreement or perceived wrong means that I am not in harmony with my social environment. Something about me stands out enough to be obtrusive. If I have no identity and no values of my own, I cease to ‘exist’ individually, assimilating to any social setting and not disturbing the flow of it.
Lao Tzu says non-being enters where there is no room. That is what I am working toward- the reduction of Self, the state of Non-Being, so that I needn’t be a doer OR an un-doer.
I have a confession to make 😦 One day when I was dealing with some pain from a surgery, I lost my patience with a neighbor in a big way. I carried on a feud for 5 weeks, long after my discomfort had ended, and long after it was necessary.
This neighbor harbors some backwards, and even hateful, views of various groups- immigrants, French Canadians, aboriginals, and homosexuals, to name a few. I tolerated his very open, very public, and often loud statements for 8 months. At most I would calmly point to incorrect generalizations or stereotyping on his part, but usually I’d redirect or politely excuse myself with a smile.
I am not ‘white’ (I don’t even believe in the idea of race, personally). I am the son of an immigrant, part aboriginal, I am french with a french last name, and I’m not ‘straight’ (I don’t actually identify as ‘gay’ either, or anything for that matter). Coming off pain meds, feeling a great deal of pain, and hearing him yell about ‘fags’ wanting marriage equality was too much for me. I asked him to stop using that word around me, and he decided to push harder, saying that’s what they were, and on and on.
I lost it.
I told him he was an f-ing moron, and that I was all the things he carries on about. Me- the one who invites him in, has coffee with him, plays video games for hours and hours with him, never puts him down, doesn’t judge or react to his Jehovah’s Witness upbringing and views as an adult, and, most importantly, calls him friend.
(sigh) Not my brightest moment.
Even though I’m not gay, I told him I wasn’t ‘straight’ and put a rainbow flag on my door. As my anger grew, and I craved more opportunity to let him make an ass of himself, I ‘came out’ as gay on Facebook, knowing his friends were connected to me there and it would stir him up.
I carried on the fight through five weeks, multiple blow ups, people holding my neighbor back from attacking me, listening to him carry on about all the damage he wanted to do to my face… After the first week, I regained my own composure, for the most part, and (I must admit) experienced some satisfaction in keeping my own cool while someone who hated me lost theirs.
However, I had a hard time meditating during this 5 weeks. An Anxiety was building inside me. It wasn’t someone’s anger toward me that stirred it up, though. There was a incongruence between internal direction and external movement. I took me time away from engaging in the dispute to calm down enough to see my own error, or, perhaps, to just be willing to admit it to myself.
I apologized to him not that long ago. I undid the mess I made. He has forgiven me, and we speak more frequently these days. I expect no apology on his part, but changes in his behavior when I’m around mean more to me than any ‘sorry’.
‘I have no opinion’ is my new mantra, and my response when being invited into any conversation about controversial issues. Once again, I enter where there is no room.