When someone you care for has decided to walk down the road to destruction, I suspect you would reach out to them and passionately urge them away from this route. But what do you do when they are convinced that the road they take is the best way for the both of you? What if they get angry at you for trying to push them against their will? What if they attack you, or condemn you for what they consider a hateful attitude or action to your part?
If it was me, I don’t think I’d care that I’m being attacked, I would just keep trying and trying, because I care about the person. I will be hurt, I would get angry, and I would even cry for that person.
What am I talking about… Religious convictions? Political decisions? Abusive relationships? Drugs? Career choices?
Answer: All of the above.
Who am I talking about?
I am talking about everybody I encounter. And I mean everybody. Including people from the street. People I’ve never met. Even people who hate me.
You see, if you walk down the path of self-destruction, not only are you destroying yourself – it is also going to destroy everyone else who cares about you. That’s why I will argue with you. I will give evidence to back up my arguments. I will beg you. I will challenge you. I will provoke you. And I will keep persisting until you are able to persuade me that you are right and I am wrong. At this point, you will probably want me to go away, and leave you alone. But how can I? But to do what you want, to leave you alone, is to show that I don’t care about you. How can I stand aside and watch as the person I love walks down the path to self-destruction? It is painful – it hurts me to the very core.
Some people think that I’m argumentative, or that I just like to debate. I don’t. Others get the impression that I think I’m always right. I really don’t. If I get something wrong I can admit it. If you say something that I don’t agree with, I will give my reasons why. I’m not going to call you stupid or accuse you of being a bad person. Of course, I could be the one in the wrong, but how am I going to know that? If I take a strong position it is because I have strong reasons to take that position. So you’re not going to persuade me that I’m the one who’s wrong if you don’t acknowledge or respond to what I’m saying to you.
I understand my approach exasperates, offends, and sometimes even hurts people. But I don’t know a better approach. Some people take a softer approach, advising me to be gentle, to hint rather than to confront, to exhort and to never judge. I hear the call to respect each other’s decisions even if you don’t agree with them. What good will that do? How are you going to respond to the person who only hints that your actions *might* cause yourself and others harm, when they actually know full well that it does? I cannot respect a decision that is founded on foolishness, even if it is not deliberately foolish. Some others take a much harder approach, giving no ground, and attacking the person outright. I don’t agree with this – I always try my best to critique a person’s decisions without attacking the person. I don’t always get it right.
Maybe my approach needs to be refined. Maybe there are better ways of communicating with some people. Look, I know I’m not Perfect. I know what I am good at, and what I am not – and something I am not so good at, is the ability to read human signals, and to gauge how to package the message in a receptive way.
You can help. If I offend you, tell me what is wrong with my message. Tell me how I can present my message clearer and less offensively. Give me feedback. Engage with the person as well as the argument.
When will I stop behaving like I am? I have already stated that I will persist and persist because I care. I will only stop when you hurt me so much that I stop caring about you. Then you won’t be hearing from me again.