Thursday, June 27, 2013

What Do You Want Me to Do?

Pretty much all of us have or have had someone who tells/told us what to do.  Whether it was a parent, a boss, a teacher, or whoever else, we had to do what he/she said or face the consequences.  Though some people correctly use such authority, others misuse it or use it when it hasn't even been given to them.  I've had way too much experience being on the receiving end of the latter; people pushed me around when I was younger because they believed there was nothing I could do to stop them.  That has led to a bit of a standoffish attitude towards others in recent years; people might have had well-meaning suggestions of what to do to improve my life, but I usually refuted them without another thought.  Sometimes, well after the fact, I realized that whoever or whatever was right, but, by that point, it was too little, too late.
Then again, I have always had a bit of trouble with listening.  When I was younger, commands or questions from others were met by a, "What?" It got so bad that my sister remarked that I needed a hearing aid.  My mom actually had my hearing checked more than once, and it was fine; my problem was, as she put it, "You just don't listen!" Spoken multi-step directions were also hard for me to follow, especially when they were non-specific, i.e., someone saying, "Move that dresser over," and I proceed to move it in the wrong direction. (Hey, "over" could be any direction!) Yet, written directions have usually been easy for me to follow; I could prepare TV dinners as a kid like nobody's business, and followed the directions to a "T".  Maybe that's why I'm an avid reader; I can understand it better in writing than spoken.
So, other than putting it in writing, how can you get me to listen to you? Well, I have two suggestions that may prove hard for many of my friends who are reading this to follow.  Still, if you don't follow them, getting me to do what you say might prove to be quite the impossible mission.  The first--and cardinal rule--is: Don't insult me.  Those of you who are Harry Potter fans may remember that iconic scene in Order of the Phoenix when Hermione proclaims, "Oh, Harry, don't you see? If she could have done one thing to make absolutely sure that every single person in this school will read your interview, it was banning it!" The context of that quotation? The almost universally disliked Professor Umbridge, who had taken over Hogwarts, banned an interview Harry did with the wizarding newspaper The Daily Prophet.  Since Umbridge got little respect, the students were all the more likely to defy her ban, if only because they didn't like her.
Unfortunately, it seems that some people want to mix disrespect with instruction.  When I get reprimanded for something I'm doing/not doing in an insulting way, I am all the more ready to keep doing (or not doing) whatever, regardless of what whoever or whatever is saying.  Some people have spouted off so much garbage--personal attacks? public embarrassment? needless, non-joking insults? physical pain?--that it's highly unlikely I will ever even consider anything they say again.  Defending others who do that is just as bad.  In short: If I can't respect you, it's unlikely that I will do as you say.
As a side note: When it comes to my tastes, I am not as "dogmatic" as some people claim that I am.  A difference of opinion is one thing; I realize that most people, including those reading this, probably like less than a third of the same things I do.  However, when "I don't like _____" turns into, "_____ is not appropriate for you," or "You like ______? That's stupid!", that's when the claws come out.  I realize that I used to exhibit such behavior myself; I staunchly protested everything from others watching sports to people going to the beach to owning and loving dogs just because I disagreed with them.  I hated sports; I despised the beach; dogs were nothing more than an annoyance; why couldn't anyone else see that? After realizing that I needed to respect others' preferences--isn't that what the Golden Rule is all about?--and that the supposed fanaticism I disliked in others couldn't hold a candle to my obsessions, I decided to stop pushing such issues.  However, that didn't stop the mouthy denizens of Planet Earth from still dishing it out to me.  (Such people need to go read James 3:1-12.)
The second rule? Make sure you have sufficient backup for whatever you are saying.  Just saying that I can't like or dislike whatever or whoever because that's not "cool," "hip," or "appropriate" for my age or gender isn't going to work; if you truly knew me, you'd know that I don't care about all that mess, anyway.  Some people have come up with some ridiculous arguments against my tastes; a babysitter I had once told me I couldn't watch Power Rangers because, and this is a direct quote, "That show makes you do weird things like wear your pants backwards!" which episode did Jason, Tommy, Billy, or Kimberly wear anything backwards? (Thanks to Shout! Factory and my local MovieStop, I can now laugh in her face.) Others have spouted off some other ridiculous claims, yet they were said in all seriousness.  That's not to say anyone who contradicts me is wrong; when an older friend informed me that going to camp for a week would involve me being outdoors the whole time, I couldn't believe I had glossed over that obvious detail, and was no longer interested in going.  (If you know me, you understand why that's a deal-breaker.)
The final rule? Pick your battles wisely.  No matter how you feel about me watching Disney Channel shows, trying to get me to give them up isn't worth it.  Not only will your disapproval make me want to do it even more--more on that later--but taking that away from me would be equivalent to taking away sports from the guys--and even some ladies--of this country.  Seriously, that is how important it is to me.  That said, if there is something that I am doing that is somehow bothering, hurting, annoying, etc., other people, you should say something.  I want to live out Romans 12:18--"Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone." (NLT)--but how can I stop annoying people if I don't know that I am?
In conclusion, let me say this: Most of you reading this probably never met my grandmother, but she was a wonderful woman.  One story my mom has told about her was how she got her driver's license.  When my mom was a kid, her mother--that is, my grandmother--did not drive; they relied on my grandfather to drive them everywhere.  After my mom was grown, my grandmother had a desire to get a driver's license...but my grandfather told her, "You'll never get it!" That made my grandmother all the more determined to get it, and it was a good thing that she did, because, after my grandfather died, she definitely needed it.
My point? When someone--anyone, really--tells me, "You shouldn't be watching Disney shows!", "You're a guy; how can you not like sports?", "Why don't you like dogs? They're so cute!" or anything to that effect, it just makes me all the more determined to do whatever they're chiding me for doing.  People have been dropping such gauntlets for years without realizing it; they don't realize that, despite their mouthiness, they've always lost, and will continue to do so.  I have my likes and dislikes, just like everyone else; if you can't take mine...there's the door.

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