Hey, You! Stop Doing That!

I feel like crap.

First off, let me admit that I’m in a more fragile and sensitive state than usual, so things I might usually brush off as, “Oh, that’s just Person X being person X,” are hitting a raw nerve today. And as we noted with Vlassic last week, hitting a nerve can cause pain and involuntary reactions. Ow!

At first I was thinking that I was just bugged by stuff on Facebook, but then I spot the annoyances popping up in LinkedIn articles, Tweets (naturally, and why am I reading Twitter when I’m feeling overwhelmed?), and even in face-to-face interactions.

It happens all the time, and is one of those habits I started noticing when I had small children and was practicing very hard to adhere to the directive to:

Give information, not advice

La Leche League

The idea was that people don’t react well when told what to do and what to think about any topic (breastfeeding being a great example). My training also reminded me over and over again not to give out advice if I wasn’t asked for it. In other words, if someone parents differently from me, that’s their right, and it may well be working out just fine for them.

Grr, I say.

Today, though, I feel almost overwhelmed by memes, articles, and very sincerely single-issue focused friends who feel is it not only their right, but their very mission to tell me how to behave, how to interact with others, and how to express my thoughts. The best part is there are equally strident voices coming at me saying the exact opposite thing. What’s with all these bossy people, anyway?

What are you ranting about, Suna?

Because you can’t spell right.

One topic that’s hammering away right now is the spread of negativity. A friend just posted a John Pavlovitz article that strongly suggests if you think you can get away with avoiding negativity or only sharing “positive” content, you are just flaunting your white privilege in front of others (unless of course, you’re not white, which means I have no clue what horrible thing those people are flaunting when they decide to take a cheerfulness break; I guess they are blocking out the suffering they should be feeling constantly).

John’s a sincere guy, and his point that just because YOU want to get away doesn’t mean very real problems will go away is quite valid. He just seems hell-bent on making his readers feel guilty, rather than inspiring them to do something helpful.

This is the kind of thing that would annoy Pavlovitz.

But at the same time, I see meme after meme after meme saying that we need to turn our frowns upside down (I knew someone who always said that to me) and only invite in positive thoughts, so we can grow and thrive. That’s also annoying. Expressing a legitimate negative feeling or observation isn’t going to send you into a death spiral. I even found this fine article on the danger of positive memes to make this point better than I could.

You just want to stick this guy in the sand, don’t you?

How about this: let’s do our best to remember the good in the world while at the same time doing our very best to improve bad conditions and recognize suffering in the world.

I guess if it makes you feel virtuous and righteous, go right ahead and tell people how to think and feel. I’m not going to be all hypocritical and tell you what to do (even though I do that in my post title, trying to be wry or something). But, what I AM going to do is skim right by your entreaties to only address Group X in this way, and only speak of Topic Y in that way.

Forget about all those suffering folks. They bring you down, man.

This is just one example of the real issue, which is that so many people take it as their mission in life to make everyone else think the way they do, and they do so by insinuating that you aren’t good enough, nice enough, open-minded enough, patriotic enough, God-rearing enough, equality focused enough, or defensive of your own social group enough. Ya just can’t do all the things.

I shall diverge from this path.

I’m going to look to my social media and my personal connections to find stories of people’s lives, their individual struggles and triumphs, and sharing of our individual issues. If you’re going to lump me into some group and “educate” me on my lack of political correctness or sufficient care with delicate topics, I’m not going to pay much attention to you.

A wee bit of advice: Tell me about your life. Tell me your struggles with oppression, prejudice, or hate. Tell me about kindness or love. But don’t lecture me for not caring correctly. That’s a waste of my time and yours.

Author: Sue Ann (Suna) Kendall

The person behind The Hermits' Rest blog and many others. I'm a certified Texas Master Naturalist and love the nature of Milam County. I manage technical writers in Austin, help with Hearts Homes and Hands, a personal assistance service, in Cameron, and serve on three nonprofit boards. You may know me from La Leche League, knitting, iNaturalist, or Facebook. I'm interested in ALL of you!

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