As I approach the beginning of another trip around the sun, I look back and see that my life has taught me there are no absolutes. Flexibility and open-mindedness are just two of many keys to survival in a world that is constantly changing.
While I have felt honored to be included in many groups over the years, both in my real life and in various communities on line, I find inclusion is also flexible, some days less than others. More often than not, it is the wide range of personalities that keeps different groups entertaining and worth that inclusion.
Sometimes, though, you say or do something that makes you realize that you have either out-grown a group, or, perhaps never really fit in to begin with. The choice to be made at those times is “do I stay or do I go”? Is inclusion important enough to alter your views to line up better with the majority? Or, are your beliefs worth standing behind?
While core values shouldn’t have to be compromised just to feel like you fit in with a particular group, one should try to accept that some differences of opinion will always exist and that neither side is “wrong” or “bad” for their beliefs. For so many issues in life, there is no right or wrong, black or white. There are certainly more than fifty shades of gray.
I have always thought that I was accepting of others whose opinions differ from mine. I enjoy lively debates on a wide variety of topics and I believe I acknowledge positive points others make even when they don’t necessarily “jive” with my views. Sadly, there are times when, despite your acceptance of another’s opinions, it is clear s/he will not accept yours. In the past, I was much more likely to heighten a verbal debate into more of a confrontation, which can really only happen with the other party is also game for escalation.
These days, I find that such escalations only drain me of mental energy that is best reserved for more constructive pursuits. I have learned that it is better, at times, to walk away than to try and prove my worthiness to be included. When I feel like I am taking a defensive stance on a given topic, no matter how small it may be, then I know it is time to make a change. Perhaps that sounds like “giving up” or “throwing in the towel”, but by whose standards? What one person may view as me “running away” from an uncomfortable situation thereby giving the impression that I am weak, I believe is, rather, a show of strength that I do not need to be defined by the company I keep. I do not need the acceptance of many others to note my worth. Within my small circle of lasting and true friends I know that I am valued beyond compare.
At the end of the day, I want to look in the mirror and see a person who willingly chose to be a better person, not by bringing others down, but by lifting them up. When I no longer feel lifted in return, it is certainly not in weakness that I walk away.
Strength comes from knowing how to stand, comfortably, alone and not feel lonely. Surrounding yourself with people who are not uplifting to you may imitate inclusion in a group, but it is no cure for loneliness, and perhaps self-doubt. Who wants to live like that?