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Easier said than done

We have this word "cliché" to dismiss any phrase that is overused.  Yet, I think there is reason for the overuse of these clichés.  There's a reason we hear "easier said than done" ad nauseam.  It's because it's true.  Putting something into practice takes far more discipline than simply expressing the concept.

On New Year's Day, I posted about resolutions.  I talked about having continual resolutions rather than simply annual ones.  This isn't easy.  How many times have I told myself "I'm not going to get angry and fight with someone online."?  How many times have I resolved to keep my discussion rational and impersonal?  How often have I resolved to focus on the positive rather than accentuating (but not ignoring) the negative?  How often have I said that I want to build on common ground with other people rather than dwelling on our differences?

So why isn't it happening?  Why do I still get mad at people that I argue with online (sometimes in person, but much more rarely so)?  Why do I repeatedly bring up things that I find differ between my opinion and yours?

Over the last couple weeks, there have been many occasions when I find myself criticizing something that someone else says or does, even in cases where what is being said or done is something that I largely agree with.  I will find the one part of the argument (or multiple parts) that I think could be corrected and I will talk about that.  How would things be different if instead I talked about the parts that I agree with?  If someone does something, why not praise them for why I feel what they've done is good, rather than criticize them for why I feel what they've done could be improved?

I've noticed that sometimes, if I do offer a compliment in place of a critique, the person I wish to critique will vocalize some criticism of eir own.  It may be the same as what I had in mind, or it may be something else.  But the fact that it came from eir lips instead of mine means that it is not as likely to injure eir pride nor cause em to feel animosity toward me.  The effect of me paying em a compliment is that ey feel good--about emself and toward me.  This in turn makes me feel good because I like making other people happy.

I've been thinking a lot about guns, violence, wars, foreign policy, and things like that.  I just watched Zero Dark Thirty.  I don't like the idea that we need to use violence to force other people to do what we want them to do.  But this makes me a hypocrite.  What is it that I don't like about this mindset?  It seeks to impose one's own will on another--that is, we want to tell other people what to do.  Well, if I'm honest with myself, a good portion of my blog posts are of the same nature.  I want to tell other people what to do.  I want to control society.  I want the world to work a certain way.  But me telling other people how to live their lives won't make the world a better place.  On the other hand, me living a better life will make the world a better place.

People don't like being told what to do.  It's a pride thing.  We want to be in charge.  From the time we're able to speak, we say "No, mom, I want to do it myself.  I'm a big boy."  We refuse help from our parents to mix the dough because we know that we're big enough and strong enough to do it.  We become irksome at hearing criticism of the work we've done because we poured our heart and soul into it.  I don't like being told what to do.  You don't like it.  If I don't like it and you don't like it, why am I doing it?  You should live the life you feel like living.  You have a conscience just like I do (unless you're a psychopath).  You are every bit as capable of making wise and moral decisions as I am.

It is my place and, I think, my duty to let you know my opinion.  I may have information that you lack that I think you might benefit from.  And if I withhold that information, you may suffer from me not speaking up.  But that's as far as I should go.  I shouldn't attempt to control your behavior.  You may find my words to be unwise--even if I think it's the wisest thing anyone has ever said.  Perhaps you are right and my wisdom is naught in the matter.  The best thing is for you to make your own decisions.  Insofar as your decisions do not infringe upon my rights, I have no place to dissuade you.  I should not use social pressure or emotional manipulation to force your hand.

I can speak for myself.  I can make a better world by making a better me.  I can live a moral and caring life.  I can be happy and seek to spread that happiness.  I can control my own actions.  And I will.  It sounds good on (electronic) paper, but it's easier said than done. ;)

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