I’ve become a big Danielle LaPorte fan in the past few months. Recently, on her blog, she posed a question to her readers: What’s one dumb thing you used to believe in?
I had to think about this, not because I didn’t think I’d ever believed in dumb things, but because I couldn’t decide which dumb thing to answer with.
What I finally came up with is that I used to think that everything was black and white, good or evil, dark or light. As I got older, I came to see that there were nearly always mitigating circumstances that created shades of gray. I began to see both sides of a conflict. I began to see the good in “bad” people and the not-so-good traits in “good” people. I began to accept that no one and no situation is all bad or all good and that there are many sides to everyone and everything you encounter.
This ability to see all sides can cause its own problems, of course; as with most things, it’s easy to swing too far in the opposite direction. Sometimes seeing both sides can paralyze you from ever making a decision and moving forward. In my own life, the many good characteristics that I knew my ex-husband possessed kept me from recognizing that other aspects of his character and personality were not good—at least for me—so I took a long time to leave a toxic marriage that had resisted all of my attempts to “save” it. Ultimately, you have to weigh the good and bad aspects that exist in every situation and choose what’s right for you.
I still struggle with the black-and-white, good-and-evil thing at times—especially with some hot-button political issues, and when I hear about people harming the defenseless among us. However, I’m more aware of these thought habits now, so it’s easier to catch myself when I go down that road.
I set myself a task not long ago to try to focus on finding common ground with others rather than focusing on the differences between us. This doesn’t necessarily mean ignoring what I see as a “negative” (like my neighbor’s opposing political views), but choosing instead to look beyond that “negative” to the place where we can meet each other (like our love of gardening) and come together. Instead of writing that person off as a [fill in “negative” trait], I regroup and try to look for the positives.
Is this easy? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. It’s often much easier to look at others and see my “rightness” and their “wrongness”—after all, it makes me feel better about myself, right? And we all know people whose behavior makes it hard to see their good sides. However, as with all goals, the more you practice, the better you become at whatever it is. So I’ll just keep plugging away at my positive/common ground focus thing, and maybe one day it’ll become second nature.
So…what’s one dumb thing you used to believe in?