I have a lengthy set of notes stored in my iPhone that I use specifically to keep track of facts that I can use in fictitious arguments with as-yet-to-be-determined individuals that might disagree with me on a given subject. I’m not proud of it. It’s pretty embarrassing, to be honest. What kind of pathetic and insecure person writes down arguments just in case someone presses them on a given subject? Yet, these notes have come in quite handy at times! Or… they might come in handy someday. Maybe?
Okay, they’re entirely useless.
Why do I really keep notes about political, religious and social issues on my phone? It’s simple – I don’t like to be wrong. I don’t like being in a position where someone is trying to change my mind about something and I don’t have an answer ready for them. I feel uncomfortable when people have different opinions or beliefs and I want to be able to convince them that my opinions or beliefs are better, so they’ll like me. I want to have facts ready to defend myself. I want to have statistics at my fingertips to attack someone else, in case I feel attacked. It runs completely counter to my life philosophy of acceptance and compassion. It’s the complete opposite, in fact! It’s entirely self-serving, it’s fueled by insecurity and anxiety, and it’s also entirely pointless.
When I feel the need to convince someone else that my opinion on something is superior to theirs, it is a sign that I am not quite as confident that given belief as I thought I was. If I was truly confident, I wouldn’t have a need to cajole anyone into thinking the same way as me, because it simply wouldn’t matter.
There’s something really interesting about my collection of notes and facts in my iPhone. The subjects I am most educated about and most passionate about are not in my notes. I don’t have any facts to back up my opinion on these subjects because I don’t need them. I am so passionate, and so educated, that I simply have no need to convince anyone else about my beliefs. I see no reason to discuss these subjects with anyone else or try to sway them over to my side, because I simply don’t care how anyone else views the situation.
A good example of this is my current exercise regime. In my 40 years on this earth I have tried approximately 1,742 different exercises to tighten my thighs, strengthen my core, lose my belly fat, decrease my cellulite and round out my buns. I have done the research, I’ve done the work, and I’m now at a point where I know exactly what works for my individual body and I’m completely comfortable with it. I will not engage in an argument with someone who tells me that yoga is useless or that I need to spend more time doing HIIT. It’s simply not worth my breath. I’ve figured out what works for me and I appreciate what works for other people and that is the end of the story for me.
However, I have a lot of notes about subjects I’m less confident about. I have some stats on nutrition for vegans, lest a carnivore ask me about my protein intake. (That came in handy last week, actually). I also have a huge collection of article links, stats and graphs about abortion. Because let’s just go ahead and talk about abortion. Abortion is one of those subjects that is so incredibly nuanced and delicate that it’s really hard to have a clear black-and-white opinion on. I’m not 100% sure how I feel about all the colors in that particular rainbow. I don’t like not being sure. So I have some facts and figures at my fingertips in case anyone should ever ask me a question about it. (You know how often people have asked me my opinion about abortion? Exactly zero times. This subject does not come up in an ordinary day of conversation).
We humans are a complicated bunch. We claim we are open-minded, but we also really hate it when people disagree with us. We take other people’s opinions as a personal affront. We don’t like it when people think differently than we do because different is usually interpreted as bad. It usually seems like one person is wrong. If someone disagrees with us, we can often see that as a challenge. That person is testing our resolve, or questioning our intelligence, or criticizing something about us. We take it personally, when it truly has nothing to do with us. It’s much more comfortable when people agree with us, or we can sway someone over to “our side” so we know that the decisions we make about our lives are right, are acceptable and are good. We want to be heard, and understood and validated. We want that approval.
The problem is, life is messy. Rarely, if ever, is there a clear right or wrong about any given subject. We can do pretty much anything in the world, yes, but we can’t do everything, at least not all at once. We have to makes choices, and choices come with consequences. Even the best decision can and will have negative side effects at times. That’s simply how life works.
I like to be right. I like to win. It feels really awesome to be able to prove my point on any given subject and get someone else to cave in and say, “Oh, you’re right, Carrie. I didn’t see it that way before. You’ve convinced me.” It doesn’t happen often … in fact, it probably only happens 0.01% of the time I try to change someone’s mind. But when it does happen – oh, it feels so good! It’s incredible.
And I’m not going to do it anymore.
Life is too nuanced, too precious, too colorful and too short to try to convince anyone else to see things my way. When I get an urge to convince someone of something, I’m simply going to use it as a mirror to reflect back to me the things I still need to explore in my own heart. My need to convince another person is really a need to find the answers myself.
Trying to convince anyone of anything stems from my need to control. But I can’t control anybody else. I can’t control their beliefs, their thoughts, their actions or their interpretation of the facts I have stored in my iPhone or anywhere else. It’s selfish and absurd for me to even try.
The external approval that we get when other people agree with us is fleeting and temporary. The intrinsic confidence we get from knowing, believing and acting according to convictions we feel down to the core of our very being is true, lasting, and real. That’s the kind of “win” I’m truly looking for. That kind of confidence and serenity cannot be found in the notes of my iPhone.