I spend a lot of my day encouraging people to bravely and effectively speak their truths, which makes it a little weird to have this post devoted to the following message:
There are lots of times when you should really shut up.
I believe our words, time, emotions, and energy are all important resources that are to be used wisely. However, it is increasingly commonplace for folks to comment on just about everything people do. Maybe it’s because you can literally comment freely on social media.
But, I don’t really care why. It’s a ridiculous waste. And it’s unhealthy.
Some examples that really irk me are based on my own life experience…
It’s weird to me that so many people are down on pregnant women for (gasp) exercising during their pregnancies. Maybe they are continuing to run or do CrossFit, because that’s what they are used to doing. Also annoying are the criticisms of women choosing not to exercise during (or after) their pregnancies because that’s what they prefer.
You are either being dangerous or lazy. Awesome, thanks for the support, ignorant commenters of the internet.
Why is there a license to criticize pregnant women and mothers? I think it’s completely unacceptable. If it’s not your body, your child, or your patient, you should zip it.
Other examples are even more difficult to bear, because of the potential impact on vulnerable people…
Many people have talked to me in the aftermath of Robin William’s death about the pain not just of the event, but of seemingly misguided commentary on social media that was deeply fearful and judgmental. Because of their own experiences, they worry about the impact these messages have on those battling suicidal thoughts.
Our words have an impact. Perhaps we can be more thoughtful in what we put out there. Are we saying things rooted in fear and shame? Or are we trying to provide something well-informed and compassionate?
When we don’t know much about a topic, perhaps the wisest thing we can do is to listen.
We need more listening.
When in doubt, there is a simple solution that I think most Kindergarteners know:
Worry about your self first. Let other people tend to their business.
Yes, you can speak from a thoughtful place on issues of public interest.
Otherwise, don’t bother talking about issues that are other people’s private, personal matters. Also considering keeping a lid on it if you don’t have anything meaningful, informed, and well considered to add.
I don’t (just) say that out of frustration. I say it because it’s the most healthy and mature response to have.
There is too much damage inflicted on others by wasted, junk words. Meanwhile you pollute yourself by wasting precious effort.
Every bit of time and emotion you put into forming opinions and expressing displeasure at what others choose to do with their personal lives, is a bit of your life that you never get back.
Why waste the moments of your life criticizing strangers? Or even those you know, when their choices don’t impact you? Why would you spend one ounce of energy on that?
It might feel “good” for a hot second. Maybe. But ultimately it’s just plain bad for you. You feel more negative. You are giving energy to the worst part of your humanity- the part that cuts others down so you can try not to feel so afraid. But it doesn’t work. Only connecting with ourselves and others makes us feel safer, better.
Connection, not fear, is the ingredient we truly want. So try very, very hard to promote positive connections to others. Fear, judgement, even thoughtlessness, damages relationships. Compassion, listening, and understanding are the components of connection.
I hope more people can learn to respond more effectively when we disapprove of others. If you are unhappy with another’s choices, use that energy to invest in yourself. What do you want to do differently? Now that’s your right- and it’s within your control. Don’t hurt someone else- make you better.
You can also choose to connect to others who are compassionate and supportive. You’ll worry less about judgement when you realize that it’s not everyone’s MO.
There are people who will continue to care about what everybody else does, or run their mouths with insensitive opinions on topics of which they know nothing. They will find, over time, that others do not choose to connect with them.
That’s their choice. I’m definitely choosing something else.