Really, I don't mean to.
One time I put as my Facebook Status something like, "I just love homeschooling." And with that I started a startling debate. It's not that I said, "I hate public schools." I simply said that I loved homeschooling. You'd think I'd spit in the face of every public school teacher within a 20 mile radius.
And this happens a lot. But, really, REALLY, I'm not a confrontational person. I do not often climb up on my soapbox in real life and I don't own a bullhorn (although secretly I think that would be awesome!). I don't like offending people. I'm really quite libertarian--live and let live, you know? I don't get in people's business, unless they ask for my opinion or if I just can't help myself.
Seriously, though, it bothers me that I offend people. I hate hurting feelings. I wish I were the kind of person who could say, "Well, we all believe differently and what you think is just as good as what I think." But, I really cannot say that with any ounce of intellectual integrity. If you and I think opposite things I can never make the concession that your opinion is as good or equally valid as mine. If I could say that then I may as well abandon my opinion altogether.
From one of my BFF's in heaven, GK Chesterton:
"A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed. Nowadays the part of a man that a man does assert is exactly the part he ought not to assert--himself. The part he doubts is exactly the part he ought not to doubt--the Divine Reason....The old humility was a spur that prevented a man from stopping; not a nail in his boot that prevented him from going on. For the old humility made a man doubtful about his efforts, which might make him work harder. But the new humility makes a man doubtful of his aims, which will make him stop working altogether.
"At any street corner we may meet a man who utters the frantic and blasphemous statement that he may be wrong. Every day one comes across somebody who says that of course his view may not be the right one. Of course his view must be the right one, or it is not his view. We are on the road to producing a race of men too mentally modest to believe in the multiplication table. We are in danger of seeing philosophers who doubt the law of gravity as being a mere fancy of their own. Scoffers of old time were too proud to be convinced; but these are too humble to be convinced. The meek do inherit the earth; but the modern sceptics are too meek even to claim their inheritance."
You tell 'em, Gil. (In my imaginary world, he lets me call him Gil. We're tight like that.)
It seems that the only way that I can avoid inadvertently offending people is if I add a caveat to every opinion and preference I have. If I say, "Autumn is the best season," I have to add "for me. If you prefer summer, I totally respect that." Tedious way to express oneself, don't you think? Of course, if you don't think that, then that's OK. We can agree to disagree on this point.
Leaving aside preferences about seasons, white wine vs. red wine, and the Los Angeles Lakers, my convictions I've come to very deliberately. I didn't decide to become a missionary or a stay-at-home-mom on a whim. Likewise with homebirth, homeschooling, co-sleeping, and babywearing. I didn't decide to have a large family because there was nothing else to do one Saturday afternoon. The way I live is very intentional for me. And, I believe it is absolutely right. If I did not believe so I wouldn't do it at all. What's the point of taking the rough and tough road less traveled? I'm sure it's not for the scenery. Many of my family's choices put us on the fringe of popular society. We are used to it, but that doesn't make it easy.
So, when I say, "I don't believe babies should sleep in cribs in rooms separate from their parents" it is not because I have no other causes to take up or because I have a vendetta against the makers of baby furniture or because I'm judging your worth and value as a parent on whether or not you use a crib. The statement is what it is. You can take it at face value or ask me why. But, rest assured it is not personal--except to me, because it's my conviction.
The thing is, I don't say things like that (very often). But, when I show up somewhere with my big family and the baby in a sling and breastfeed on demand, someone who has 1.6 children whose baby is in the stroller with a bottle starts defending their lifestyle--even though I've never said a word! (And would never say anything. That's their baby and their life. I can't live it for them!) In fact, I consider myself very tolerant. My friends are very diverse--from a vast array of political camps, religious affiliation or lack thereof, and lifestyles. I wouldn't dream of putting my friends in any box I could construct. I find their diversity to be one of my favorite things about my favorite people! And I would never ask one of my friends to be less of who they are. If
I know someone is going to suggest or think that I should just be less "out there." I should keep my religion or parenting philosophies or foodiness or health fanaticism or politics to myself. The thing is, I don't want to live that way. I want to be transparent. I want you to see right into my soul and know that what you see is what you get. I don't want to be the kind of person that represents one thing in public and something totally different at home. I was recently greatly inspired by this blog post: Artificial or Real? (I encourage you to read the whole article. It's such a good read!) Here is an excerpt that really spoke to me:
Sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with a co-worker, I was surprised when she made the strong comment that, “religion should be a very private thing.” In an accusing tone she said that my friend and I, who were partners in ministry at that time, were so different; we were always talking about our faith, beliefs and values in one way or another, making it a normal part of every day conversation. “I like to keep my religion to myself,” she continued. “That’s like keeping the shades drawn in my house so no one can see inside. I’m a very private person and no one needs to know what goes on in my house or my heart. That’s my business only. God sees me and that’s all,” she insisted. Then, in a disapproving tone, she persisted, “The two of you never have the shades drawn. You are both so transparent about your beliefs and values in Jesus and the Bible that everyone can see the light that’s inside, just shining out there for everyone to see!” and she spread her hands wide for drama!
Noting her defensiveness and her unwillingness to hear any more of what I had to share about the Lord, my comment to her was an incredulous, “My, then I’d better make sure my windows are always washed.” This seemed to disarm her and we both chuckled.
|Stained-glass in Notre Dame in Paris.|
So, if I have ever hurt your feelings because my shades were pulled back, I'm sorry. And if my shades were pulled back and my (hypothetical) windows were dirty, I'm even sorrier! (The actual windows of my house are quite dirty. So, don't look too closely.)
In conclusion, I have never seen an episode of House. However, I find the commercials hysterical. There's a great little scene: a woman says to Dr. House, "How is it you always think you're right?!" He replies, "I don't. I just find it difficult to operate on the opposite assumption."