Recently, I got wind of something a friend might be doing that, while they think is for the better of a large number of people, is probably just going to be a hurtful thing.
Now, I am faced with a dilemma. Confront my friend about their intent and try to talk them out of it? Warn the friend it is most likely to hurt? Both? Neither?
The thing is, no matter what I do, I can’t change this friend’s mind. They are convinced they know best, they are in the right, and they are going to act as they will no matter what I — or probably anyone else — might suggest.
This upsets me. People I care about are going to be hurt. But there is very little I can do to change that.
When all is said and done, this is minor. I know many others dealing with a broader, more complicated situation where people they care about are ignorantly being hurtful to others.
None of my family nor friends are Conservatives. My family and friends overall support progress and stand for equality, LBGTQA+ rights, Black Lives Matter, science, and things that make the world better for all.
Still, watching people being unkind, unempathetic, and outright rude is frustrating. What can I do about it?
Here is what you can do
When it comes to people you would like to persuade to do anything at all — you can do nothing.
Maybe that’s not fair. I mean, you can talk to them, explain your point to them, try to make them see your side. If their position is unreasonable, try to make them see reason.
HOWEVER — all you can do is make an attempt. If they are not open to the conversation, a different opinion or perspective, you will get nowhere with them.
When someone is being hurtful — intentionally or otherwise — and you cannot sway them to your way of thinking, it is infuriating. The frustration of the bullheaded stubbornness — especially if they are wrong — makes you feel aggravated. Why don’t they understand or see that they’re wrong?
That’s the problem. They don’t see it because they don’t believe it. When someone gets it in their head to do a thing, unless it’s in their nature to take advice and be open to alternatives — you’re up against a brick wall.
Nothing you can say or do is going to change that person if they are not willing to change.
You may or may not be the same way. It’s human nature to create beliefs — and then cling to them, even when they are outdated, unproven, or wrong. People get a certain way or have a certain way — and due to inherent resistance to change they take and hold a stance unyieldingly.
Hence, unless the person you see being unkind, unempathetic or outride rude is amenable to suggestion, commentary, and change — you can do nothing.
Isn’t there something I can do?
I know this feeling. It is just so very, very frustrating. They are being so stubborn, so blind to fact. How can they not see that what they intend to do or are doing is hurtful and wrong? There HAS to be a way for me to do something, right?
Much as it pains me to admit this — wrong. There is nothing you or I can do.
Can you get inside another person’s head to see the way of their mindset? Are you in any way able to enter into someone’s headspace and think their thoughts or feel their feelings? The answer is NO.
Because of this, you can’t change someone unwilling or undesiring of change. Unless they are open to another idea or seeking a change, nothing you do will impact them.
Well, that’s not entirely true. They may become annoyed at and/or frustrated with YOU for butting in. How dare you tell them what’s what?
If, like me, you want to change the world for the better, accepting this is virtually impossible. You see the issues, you think about the problems, you feel the pain of those suffering — how come so many people are blind to that?
I wish I knew. Since I am unable to get inside anyone else’s head, I can’t understand them and their perspective.
Do I have to accept it? Yes…and no.
Be the change you wish to see
I work hard to be an example of a good friend, lover, ally, or what-have-you. When I can, I partake of things to impact change on the world at large and strive to be the best me that I can be.
This is why I work with practical mindfulness, building my consciousness of my thoughts, feelings, and actions. That awareness allows me to have some control of them.
Because when all is said and done — that is the ONLY control I have in the Universe. Myself, and specifically my mindset/headspace/psyche.
Rather than allow myself to be frustrated when I can do nothing about anyone else, I can redirect the energy into myself. I can strive to be more present, positive, and an overall force for good.
Perhaps I can’t stop someone from being hurtful, unempathetic, unkind, and/or rude. But I can let them know I don’t condone their way, and then support those they cause hurt to. Further, I can cut them out of my life, passively or actively.
I know, however, that this can be REALLY difficult if they are a colleague, friend, or family. You care about them — but you don’t necessarily like them and what they doing or not doing.
Though it is easier said than done, its still the better part of valor to turn the focus inward and work on yourself. Then you can be a beacon in the dark for a greater number than just the people you most desire to change — though you can’t change them.
A note about selfishness
If you do turn away from these people whom you would like to change but cannot — and turn the focus inwards — they might counterattack.
It never ceases to amaze me, at the national level, how Conservatives — who actively deny people rights, lessen freedoms and cause others harm — get all uppity when faced with a rejection of their actions. They exhibit extreme hypocrisy when you take freedoms away — but act far worse than the other side when they have their own “rights” impacted — or face resistance to their actions.
Thus, if you take a stand in opposition to them — and passively or actively cut them out — they might turn around and call you selfish. Or, ya know, lump you in with “libtards” and “snowflakes” and such.
Self-care is NOT selfish. Selfish is taking more than your share, denying other people a share, and anything that has an intentionally negative impact on another for your own gain.
Too many aspects of self-care practice get tagged as being selfish. But they aren’t. And when you cannot do anything to change anyone else, you might as well take care of yourself.
No, you can’t change anyone else. The only change over which you have any control is yourself. But that opens you to an almost infinite amount of potential and possibility.
Know that you are worthy and deserving of using mindfulness to find and/or create the reality in which you desire to live. When all is said and done our thoughts, feelings, and actions matter, as does what you do to change and better yourself.