Mind Your Own Business?

Sandhenge - Tricia GriffithThis is something that I have personally struggled with a few times in life. When do you cross that line in the sand between minding your own business and speaking up? Speaking up on behalf of others, speaking up for yourself, knowing when to keep your mouth shut and when something needs to be said.

Are we all too well schooled in that “mind your own business” adage? I just finished watching a short video on Upworthy.com that made me think about this subject. A hidden camera show tests out the question “What Would You Do?”, and in this case, the video was testing how people respond to a gay couple with children being harassed by a waitress. You can watch the video here.

One of the people who didn’t speak up casually commented that it was none of her business. It led me to think about how many times you hear about people who are mentally abused, beaten, bullied or otherwise mistreated, and something terrible happens. People comment that the signs were there, but they didn’t think it was any of their business; they didn’t want to get involved.

Where does the line of social privacy end and social responsibility begin?

Misty Tree - Tricia GriffithMany years ago, the couple who lived upstairs from us would have serious fights. And I mean, knock-down, drag-out screaming matches. We would struggle with, okay, it’s their business, they’re fighting. But, when they’re shouting loud enough for the rest of us to hear, it can’t help but start to become our business. Then, they start throwing things and you hear things breaking, and you kind of start to reach out beyond that line of minding your own business to thinking, what if one of them ends up dead and I did nothing?

We called the authorities when things started breaking. We didn’t know the neighbors other than in passing, but they had a pretty good idea who called and were less than thrilled with us. Still, I think that having them hate us was better than having something horrible happen.

For many of us, we don’t think twice about calling in animal neglect or abuse, but we get more nervous when it comes to people. Are we afraid of what happens when we intervene on a human’s behalf? Is it fear of confrontation? Do we really think that someone being publically discriminated against or privately abused is not our business?

Forget-me-nots - Tricia GriffithEven if you can’t quite bring yourself to publically call out someone being discriminatory or abusive, perhaps you should look into other ways to do it. Being an introvert myself, I’m not sure how quickly I would be willing to stand up and defend someone in a public place, it probably depends upon the situation. After watching that video, I think I might be more inclined to do so.

However, if you worry that confronting someone publically is out of your comfort zone or maybe even dangerous, you can still take steps to make a difference. Speak privately to someone in charge. Write a letter to the editor. Call the police, call protective services, just call someone.

Sometimes you just need to speak up.


Walk Your Talk

Stone Angel - Tricia GriffithFor many years, I have been leery of “religion”, because for the longest time, some of the meanest people I met were being so in the name of their interpretation of their religion.

In the early 90’s when I first began finding my spiritual path, things that were “New Age” were often wrongly associated with Satanism. I participated in psychic fairs where religious people picketed outside. I hung out in a metaphysical bookstore where occasionally people would come in and point out that we were Satanic because we had a [hand-painted Native American horse] skull in the window.

I canvassed door to door for an endangered species organization and the people with the most outward displays of their religion on their homes were often the cruelest. “I’ll just shoot the wolves myself”, and “I’d rather save babies than nature” (I’m still trying to figure that one out.) were common harsh comments.

Then, of course I could go on and on about the centuries of wars waged in the name of religion. But then, you would all fall asleep or start to wonder what my point was.

Shrine - Tricia GriffithFortunately, over the years, I have met people who were “religious” who actually weren’t harsh or cruel. I met a woman who, many years ago, made a deal with God, that if her father survived an illness, she would give up junk food. He survived, and she did give up junk food. She also was a kind, gentle and generous person whose faith in her religious beliefs and her actual practice of them, I greatly admired.

More and more, I find people I can have a conversation with about differing religious and spiritual beliefs, and it doesn’t turn into an argument. I meet people who share their view of the way their spiritual world works not only with words, but with action. They love their neighbor, they help others, they are kind to their fellow human beings; without an agenda, without standing on a sidewalk shouting about sin, without calling their fellow spiritual beings Satanists.

Beaver Lake Nature Center - Tricia GriffithI believe that whatever religion you feel is "the right one”, it is your right one. The trick is not to judge others for their beliefs. First of all, if their spiritual path makes them a better, kinder person, who are we to judge how they got there? Secondly, before you judge another person’s beliefs or behavior, you better take a good look at your own.

Before you shout your beliefs from the rooftops and begrudge people the path they walk, think about the words you’re speaking. Are you walking your talk? Can you say, without a doubt, that you are living the ideal of your own spiritual beliefs?

I personally believe that the world would be a much better place if people stopped preaching their beliefs and starting living them.

Communication is a Four Lane Superhighway

Photo by Tricia GriffithFor a few years now, more so since we moved to another state, I have had my moments of guilt over not calling or writing (emailing) family and friends more.  While it doesn’t  necessarily excuse the gap in communication on my part, my little mantra of self-comfort has been “communication is a two way street”.  Meaning yeah okay I’m out of touch with a lot of people, but they are also out of touch with me. Just as my outbox collects dust except for business communications, so does my inbox collect little more than spam.  Well good.  Guilt eased. Right?

I recently had the realization however, that a two-way street does not NEARLY encompass all that communication is.  Then I cracked myself up with the analogy that in reality, communication is a four lane superhighway.  Though that may even be simplifying it a little too much too, unless you say it’s one of those superhighways with the super confusing “can o’ worms” type interchanges.  Yeah, that’s it!

Even the information superhighway has nothing over the human communication superhighway.  There are twists and turns, merging traffic and do not enter signs everywhere! People talk before they think, react in anger or frustration; others sit and stew on something they should have said ages ago until it becomes a huge source of inner anger and frustration.  Family feuds, wars and lawsuits are born because of a bad choice of words or a lack of communication.  A point well illustrated in Michael Brewer’s recent blog post Finding Sarah Woodward about one ancestor who was nearly forgotten due to distance and the infrequency of communication that was inherent to her time.

Photo by Tricia GriffithCommunication between humans is more than just I called you, you called me, he said, she said.  It’s a delicate balance of what to say, when to say it, forethought and afterthought.  Miscommunication has been the downfall of empires, businesses and personal relationships since probably the dawn of man.

The Little White Lie

I was just trying to imagine what it would be like if the people who asked me how I am doing today REALLY wanted to know the gory details.  While I often DO genuinely want to know how a friend is doing when I say “How are you doing?”, I’m kind of glad that the average person I might say that to in order to be polite simply says “Not too bad!” or “I’m doing well, thanks!” rather than launch into a full description of the corn they had removed, their menstrual cycle or that strange itchy rash they’ve had.

Photo by Tricia GriffithIf you do some research on the idea of little white lies, you’ll see that it’s a controversial subject.  Like many things, how you look at it hinges on your upbringing, your belief system and perhaps your own empathy towards the feelings of others. 

I would personally prefer to hear “You look like you’ve lost some weight!” even it’s not true that have someone point out that I look a bit bloated today.  Call me sensitive.

Communication Overload:

Some of us are born communicators.  They’ll tell you anything you want to know and probably many things you didn’t want to know!  While there is generally nothing negative intended, you may not necessarily care to know the history of every house you drive past, the origin of that street name or the six degrees of separation that author has from Kevin Bacon.

Road Closed for Maintenance:

Photo by Tricia GriffithCommunication is also a matter of not making assumptions in either direction.  Don’t assume a loved one knows how you feel, or that your neighbor knows why you’re not speaking to him.  And conversely, just because someone has been quiet and non-communicative, don’t automatically presume it’s because of something you did, or didn’t do.

What you don’t say can speak volumes, whether you mean it to or not.  Maybe you don’t tell a friend or a family member that you love them, because you just assume that they know how you feel.  Meanwhile, that person wonders what the heck is going on. Sometimes communication is simply explaining that you don’t feel like communicating today.

Yield Ahead

The modern age of communication lacks a certain degree of inflection that can occasionally make the meaning of what we’re saying murky at best.  Instant message, texting, emails and social networks provide a whole range of ways to keep in touch with friends, family and acquaintances, yet at the same time present endless opportunity for miscommunication, misunderstand and itchy send button fingers.

While in person you know that your friend has a penchant for being a smart aleck, in a text only conversation, a single smart remark misinterpreted can lead to disastrous ends.  On the opposite end of the spectrum what one person thinks is just friendly, charming banter can get misinterpreted by the other as a come on or personal feelings that don’t really exist.

Photo by Tricia GriffithRapid fire, heated conversations and short tempers don’t mix well in an instant reply world.  Harsh remarks and things send in anger or frustration don’t have an undo button and can result in a lot of back pedaling, apologies and regrets.

Be aware, whether on the sending or receiving end, what this lack of inflection and instant response atmosphere means.  Think before you hit the send button, and take what you read with a grain of salt before you allow yourself to feel insulted or injured by it.

Don’t Blame the Navigator

While I am sure there are countless other highway analogies and communication faux pas that I could carry on about for another several hundred words, I’ll close with this.  With so many ways to communicate and express ourselves, it’s easy to find a way to lay blame on the bad directions or outdated map.  If you choose not to communicate at all about what you want or what upsets you, then you really can’t blame others when you don’t get what you want or they upset you.  And remember before you ask, do you REALLY want to know the answer?

Photo by Tricia GriffithIs the miscommunication worth destroying a relationship or starting a war over?  Are you itching to reply to someone with a smart remark or witty retort even though you KNOW it could be misconstrued or blown entirely out of proportion?   Maybe that bridge out ahead sign was totally meant for someone else!

At any rate, we live in an age where communication is both unavoidable and essential. Maybe it’s a good time to remember not to drive angry on the communication superhighway, and take a deep breath before you get behind the wheel or click that send button.

Safe travels!