Life has always been very black and white for me. Growing up, I found it easier for my brain to process information as either absolutely right or absolutely wrong. the best or the worst. It made things easier to parse and understand, while building up some sort of belief structure for my life and instill values and ideals that I felt were essential to me as a person.
What this has done is make me quite averse to challenging any initial assumptions I make in life. I make very quick judgments and assumptions on things and then feel married to those assessments, finding it hard to counter them. This is really not a good trait at all. It’s intrinsically linked to my pride — that horrible trait that forces me to act in ways that make me feel great on the outside, but stupid, weak, inferior and defensive on the inside.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realise a few things. I’ve realised that I’m not as clever or smart as I thought I was. That my opinions are just that — my opinions. And so there will always be others who disagree with me. I suffer quite badly from pride. Inside my mind I’m more than welcome to think that things are binary, but outside my mind — in the real world — things are different. I’ve discovered that life is not binary. It’s nuanced. The great thing about nuance is that it means that finding an answer will take time.
Not being right doesn’t mean that I’m necessarily wrong.
This is quite liberating. Personally, it frees me from the pressure of picking the “right” side of any argument and of always being “right”. Nuance is great because I can now remove absolutes from opinions. I get why people like absolute opinions. They make us feel safe. Phrases like “I’d never do X.” and “You always do Y.” give us a sense of identity, a sense of purpose and provide meaning in our lives. But as Merlin, Horace and John say — we need to be able to have different thoughts in our heads without the fear of destroying our own beliefs.
Recently there have been some issues that have arisen on the web that are polarising. Some are serious, others less so. All very topical, all very emtional. All very complicated. All very nuanced. Part of me wants to just jump in and shout my opinion, but instead I’m trying something new. I’m trying to press pause on my reactions. It’s freaking hard, and I’m still pretty rubbish at it. But instead of jumping in head-first, I’m trying to re-frame the problem. Walk around the car. Because in all likelihood I’m not right. But then again, is anyone in any of these situations absolutely “right”? I doubt it.
So let’s all just take a step back and think before rushing to pour out our absolute arguments in 140 characters or share some ridiculous rant on Facebook. Let’s take a breath and look at situations in life and realise that very few people, if any, have all the facts. And without all the facts no one can sit in absolute judgement of these situations.
I’ve long been a massive supporter of context. Our place in our lives, others’ lives, the planet, the universe. We’re pretty insignificant outside of our own heads, but it takes a long time for our pride to accept this.
Carl Sagan said it best, so read here for his full speech, but even better, watch the video.
Because at the end of the day we’re all just winging it.