i may be biased, but my parents were both really fantastic. which is especially laudable because i was a real asshole for a while. but that’s not the point of this post.
the point is, one of the main things my parents taught me was to treat others the way i want to be treated. a relatively simple principle, but still one worth reinforcing. because, like i said, i was kind of an asshole.
but one of the other things they taught me was to not be a doormat. i hate confrontation – and my parents are probably the least confrontational people i know – but they tried to show me that there’s a difference between confrontation and assertion. between overstepping boundaries of personal grace and dignity, and standing up for yourself.
this brings me to a conundrum i’ve been mulling over.
when something really upsetting happens to me, i imagine myself calling home, spitting out a stream of words to my mom, anxiety coursing through the phone line. and she would always respond, “don’t let it bother you, jenny. you can’t do anything about it. you can’t change other people. forget about them. it’ll all work out.”
one thing i’m constantly working on in myself is being gracious. accepting that everybody has less-than-stellar moments, and trying to be forgiving and kind because i will have those moments too, and i would want somebody to be forgiving and kind towards me.
however…there is a fine line between being gracious and being letting yourself be steamrolled.
and we all, unfortunately, are faced with those moments when we know in our heart of hearts that we have every right to pop off. that we are NOT being treated fairly and that nobody would blame us for a second for flying off the handle. yelling. cussing. pushing the boundaries of grace because, when we don’t receive grace in the first place, there is no real obligation to extend it in return.
but then i think…in ten years, when i look back on this moment, will i be proud of the way i behaved?
when somebody does something shitty, you can either be shitty back – which, honestly, sometimes is the best option and feels really good – or you can let it become an exercise in grace.
i have to keep telling myself, reminding myself, that good people will always find the support they need. whether it’s your advisor dropping everything and walking over with a handful of chocolate because she could tell by your voice that you were not okay, or your students who you’ve only known for three months offering to help you pack, or your ex reminding you over and over to breathe…people are always willing to open their hearts to somebody who they see to be genuinely good, and who they think is deserving of love and support.
and so i keep that in the back of my mind. when it’s a struggle to remain gracious. when i feel like maybe i should forgo the high road. because in the end, it’s not worth it. save your energy for those who will cherish it. save it for those who show you love, because they’re the ones who deserve all the best parts of you.
so in ten years, when i look back, i will hopefully see an experience that made me stronger, forced me to find humor where there was none, and made me a better person because i chose grace.