Kind, True, Necessary
What other people say about you is none of your business.
I wish that was my advice, but really, I got it from a friend in college who got it from a Jesuit priest who probably got it from the Pope, who, if I had to guess where this game of telephone is going, got it right from God herself.
Like flossing and eating well, that is easier said than done.
And it’s way easier if you don’t have the Internet.
The Internet is a funny little thing, isn’t it? One day we’re drunk on building people up, the next day we’re burning them at the stake. But in between these highs and lows, we’re given a spectacular amount of power every single day. We’re complacent about it and blind to it, for the most part, this ability to zip into somebody’s life through their phone or their computer, to interrupt their day with our own points of view, opinions, and judgments.
When this happens, when someone arrives, unbidden, in your otherwise safe and happy inbox or timeline, with feedback not about the things you like, but about you, it’s shocking and unnerving. That people can come to their own conclusions about you and your life, without having spoken to you about any of these topics, without even knowing you, really.
This isn’t something that happens just when you blog about your life and people think that they know everything you are going through even though, hi, it’s the Internet not like, a complete download of my every single thought and emotion. This has happened to you and you’ve probably done it to someone else, without realizing it, as I undoubtedly have. As I know I have, because I recently found myself going Kanye in a neighborhood Facebook group and thought to myself, okay, time to take a break from the Internet!
We have a tendency to remember each of these mean little whispers as louder voices than any of the praise that’s been shouted in our face over the year, even though we shouldn’t.
You know you shouldn’t, but you can’t help it, because we are people and we do lots of things we can’t explain, like go to Donald Trump rallies or believe that Apple is giving away “broken” iPads through comments on a Facebook post. We’re just humans, and humans are weird and fragile little creatures in sales rack clothing, filled to the brim with insecurities.
Stop that, though. Because there’s nothing you can do about these people, even if you really think that you can reason with the unreasonable. It’s not your job to defend yourself or to correct other people.
It’s not about you.
Just think of that, every time someone makes your blood pressure rise or your heart race. It’s not about you.
What other people do is not about you. What other people say is not about you. Even if you’re the topic.
How can this be, though, when we all live in a digital solar system that we’ve constructed to revolve around ourselves? How can it possibly not be about us when we are the topic of someone else’s negative fixation? Dudes, I don’t know, it’s just that some people ask themselves “WWJD?” and then they’re like, “Oh, I know. He’d be an asshat.” WRONG.
But whatever. It’s not about you!
Kanye going off on Wiz Khalifa for using the letters “kk” in a tweet was not about Wiz Khalifa and his cool pants. It was about Kanye’s own insecurities.
Your sister-in-law posting weird, passive aggressive memes is not actually about you and the fact that you didn’t bring the proper side dish to Thanksgiving, it’s about her and whatever makes people want to post weird, passive-aggressive memes to Facebook.
This is hard to remember. Oh man, it’s hard to remember. Even if you read The Four Agreements like a bajillion times. And you should read that book a bajillion times. Or at least once. Let’s start with once, even if it just makes you long for the good old days when people would just say stuff behind your back like decent folks.
We are taught when we are young to think before we speak, but now we need to learn to think before we type. We need to learn and re-learn it every time we pick up our phones and remember to ask before we push our way into someone’s else’s life via this magical electronic rectangle:
Is this kind?
Is it true?
Is it necessary?
Let’s think about all of these things.
Is it kind? Like really, is this the kind of thing you would want to receive? Will it make someone else feel good?
Is it true? Not just your opinion. Not just some of the facts you heard from someone else or filled in between a few Facebook comments. Is it truer than true? The truth is slippery. And there are so many versions. There is your truth and my truth, and what actually happened, and who has access to that very specific, very subjective little fish?
Is it necessary? Is it? For the recipient, I mean. Is this for them? Or is it for you? If it’s for you, consider instead writing it in a journal or saying it out loud in your car while you’re driving because your car is a very nice place to have an imaginary conversation. Or so I’ve heard. If you’re sure it’s not for you, not to absolve you of something or prove your rightness, how is it for the other person? What do you hope to accomplish with this? And is it your place to do so?
It’s easy to forget these things, when we are faced with people who want to claim that white privilege isn’t real or that the wage gap is a myth or that Delta is giving away a free flight to anyone who shares a Facebook post (they aren’t. THEY NEVER ARE. Please stop this nonsense, grandmothers of the world). It’s easy to forget that on the other end of that computer phone in your pocket is just a human being whose life and heart, you know nothing about, other than they have a differing opinion from yours or are, in fact, inviting you to an infuriating number of pyramid scheme parties dressed up as “network marketing,” which, like Delta giving away a free flight to Facebook commenters, is simply not a thing.
It’s against my nature, but I’ve been working hard at digitally walking away, because when I’ve asked myself these questions, no matter how many times I wanted the answers to be otherwise, I knew that my reply was not kind or true, but most of all, it wasn’t necessary.
Article as seen on the Huffington Post
Image from Shutterstock.com
Nora McInerny is the author of the best-selling memoir It’s Okay to Laugh (crying is cool, too) and the host of American Public Media’s Terrible, Thanks for Asking. She received the Most Improved award four times in high school.