Monday, December 2, 2013

Not Just Black And White

As much as we'd like to think that the world is black and white, right and wrong, there really are gray areas. 

A teacher I had held up a piece of white paper and a piece of black paper while talking about making decisions. Then he held up a piece of bright white paper that made the seemingly former white paper look grayish in comparison. 

I think it's a good comparison for life. We think we are making white decisions, but then realize that our white isn't as pure and bright as we thought. They are still not black decisions, but not the whiteness that we though.
"Nothing about life is black and white. Nothing. But for some reason, most people can't understand or accept that. This will cause them to be horrible to you. 
"They'll tell you that you're not a good person, because they've learned to see goodness only in one specific shape that you don't fit. They'll tell you that your experiences aren't valid, because their experience was different. They'll tell you that your problems aren't legitimate, because they don't like what it would mean for them if they were. Your depression is just laziness, because if it were a real thing, that would mean your life is harder than theirs. Your questions are just a lack of faith, because if you were doing everything right and things still weren't working, that would mean their whole system could be wrong. Their privilege (white, male, thin, heterosexual, mental health, beauty, parents' money) isn't real, because that would mean that they don't deserve the things they have, or that their problems aren't legitimate. Everything is zero-sum to them, black or white, right or wrong. You can't be right, because that would make them wrong.
"But people are never all good or all bad. They are hurting, they are stupid, they are full of self-loathing. They are treated badly by others, too. They are working with the information they have, and thanks to the fact that all the same things were true of their parents, that information is often harmful bullshit. 
"Don't let people push that bullshit on you. You figure out for yourself what you believe about the world; don't take anyone else's word for it. Do your own research. Question everything you think. Listen. Seek out different perspectives. Trust but verify (always, always verify). Obey only your own conscience. Talk to people who respect your feelings. Don't be a Me Monster yourself—other people's problems don't make yours less important. Don't compare. Never one-up.

"Don't try to make life black and white. It isn't. Resist the temptation—and I know it will be strong—to assume the worst about people. You'll need a certain amount of self-confidence to accomplish that; try to cultivate it. Be kind to yourself. Be kind to others, but don't think that means letting people treat you badly. Saying no is not unkind. In fact, no might be one of the most important words you learn. You can love someone and still say no. Say no to beliefs they try to impose on you. Say no to expectations you don't need to fulfill. Say no to anything that conflicts with your soul, and pay close attention to yourself so you know what that is. Never stop examining yourself, your beliefs and intentions and actions. Yes, this is as exhausting as it sounds. But "only a fool desires cheerful ignorance."*

"Life cannot be black and white, because you will never know everything there is to know about it. The world has enough people who believe they know all there is. We need people who know they don't."
Try not to think in terms of my view verses your view, but rather think in terms of compassion and understanding.

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