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You Can Still Be Respectful and Not Give a Crap

When I was much younger – say, around 8-9 years old – I used to get in trouble with my school teachers, and other adults in positions of authority, regularly.

Pretty much not a day would go by without my mother receiving some troublesome news about me.

I guess, looking back, I simply had an aversion to authority.

And while that continued until my early teens, when I learned what it meant to really show respect and understand conflict with authority was primarily in my mind, I also learned something at that young age that must have made an impression (even subconsciously) from my granddad.

Wisdom Has No Age Limits

I always loved my granddad. He was the safety net I’d cling to when everyone else seemed down on me.

He was the one that would let me watch TV just that little bit later.

He was the one who would let me read my comic under the bed with the flashlight, when everyone else would confiscate the flashlight.

In short, he was the one that would break the rules and let me be who I wanted to be. Except, not really.

Instead of letting me be an out of control tearaway, looking back he was actually guiding me to be a better person because of the trust I had in him.

When he spoke, I’d agree and nod – even if I didn’t like it. And – usually – do as he said.

Whether or not my mother was in cahoots with him in this endeavour, I’ll never know. Perhaps, perhaps not. Either way, he made me stop and think of the things my mother was trying to teach me.

So, when I was having my brush with people in authority, my granddad pulled me aside, and said the following:

You might think grown-ups are bad, and stopping you from having fun. And, sometimes, they will. But it’s only because they love you. Now – you can choose which ones to listen to. And, I know  not everyone is worth listening to. So here’s a trick – listen to the people who love you, every time. Your mum. Your sister. Me. Your grandma. Listen to your friends, but only the ones who don’t make you feel bad about yourself. And listen to your teachers who make you smile when you’ve done something. These people are all just trying to help you enjoy life. And that’s something not everyone will do.

Now, I know I’ve paraphrased some of his words. After all, this was almost 40 years ago (holy crap, I’m getting old!!). But the gist of the message is definitely there.

And it’s one I use today in pretty much everything I do, and you should too. Here’s why.

Living Life The Way It’s Meant to Be Lived

In a recent edition of TIME, there was a fantastic memorial article by David Von Drehle, about a gentleman named Charlie White.

David and Charlie were neighbours, and David’s piece wrote about the lessons Charlie instilled from a life well lived.

Charlie was 109 when he passed.

The article recounts passages of time from the turn of last century, and is a fascinating and warm look into a period of time most of us will never have known. Yet it’s also a reminder of how to live a life well lived.

Charlie’s “secret” to a happy life was the realization that you have to separate the things you can’t control from the things you can.

This was a lesson he imparted to one of his daughters when she was having issues with someone that was frustrating her.

The fact Charlie lived such a long and happy life has to have some part in this mindset. It’s the same mindset my granddad had, and is – essentially – the one I try to live to these days.

After all, let’s face it – how important are the words of others who actually have no real impact over who we are and what we stand for?

Enough With the Egg Shells

A great example of this can be found in this post from 2014, by Marc Ensign, called “The Pussification of the Internet”.

In it, Marc shares how the web has become this place where we’re too scared to have an opinion, because we’ll be jumped on by others, or called to task, etc.

Because of this, the web is in danger of becoming a sanitized version of what it should be – open, challenging, questioning and, most of all, bare bones honest. It’s a great – if not quite safe for work read – and well worth your time.

Because it’s true.

In August 2104, the Pew Research Internet Project released a report that made for some enlightening – and a little bit scary/sad – reading.

Entitled “Social Media and the Spiral of Silence”, it shared the answers of just over 1,800 adults and their thoughts on the impact of the Edward Snowden / NSA fallout in the US and beyond, and how that affected the way these adults conversed online.

There are many interesting takeaways from the report, but two in particular stood out.

  • In both personal settings and online settings, people were more willing to share their views if they thought their audience agreed with them. For instance, at work, those who felt their coworkers agreed with their opinion were about three times more likely to say they would join a workplace conversation about the Snowden-NSA situation.
  • Previous ‘spiral of silence’ findings as to people’s willingness to speak up in various settings also apply to social media users. Those who use Facebook were more willing to share their views if they thought their followers agreed with them. If a person felt that people in their Facebook network agreed with their opinion about the Snowden-NSA issue, they were about twice as likely to join a discussion on Facebook about this issue.

Now while these two points refer to unease on how the US government is monitoring the conversations of its citizens, it also highlights the growing issue of just going with the flow as opposed to taking a stand.

It’s a walking-on-egg-shells mentality that both limits our growth and inhibits our learning. If we were all meant to have the same point of view, we may as well quit now because there would be no need for us to be.

That’s not to say we ignore everyone else – far from it. But we do need to start standing up for ourselves and our opinions more, and not just be part of the herd.

Like my granddad said himself, think of who you want to listen to.

Think of who you want to take advice from.

Think of who actually matters, and whose opinion and feelings you wouldn’t want to hurt.

And be respectful of those you disagree with.

For everything else – who gives a crap?

By Danny Brown

Husband. Father. Optimist. Pragmatist. Purveyor of not settling for the status quo. Aspiring to be many things. Never says no to a good single malt.

Comments (11)
  1. Nancy Davis September 17, 2015 at 1:14 pm

    I love this Danny. Years ago, I was the insecure person who wanted every person in the room to like her. That Nancy bit the dust years ago. I no longer give a crap about who likes me. This is one of the most liberating things I have ever done for myself.

    Of course, I have people in my life who I don’t wish to offend, so I keep my views on controversial events to myself. I agree we do feel freer to state our opinions among those who feel similar. The rest of the time, I keep my mouth shut especially if my differing opinion will cause more harm than good.

    The rest? They can go pound salt.

    • Danny Brown September 18, 2015 at 9:39 am

      You know, it’s interesting – we’ve known each other for, what, about 5 years now? Maybe more. And in that time, I’v seen you change from the reclusive person you used to be, to a stronger, more determined Nancy. And it’s been great to watch happen!

      Here’s to the salt pounders and the little they mean to us.

  2. Judy Lee Dunn September 17, 2015 at 3:52 pm

    I am struggling with this right now, Danny. I know people who have two different blogs: one for their business audience and another to talk politics, religion and the “big” issues.

    I can see the advantages and know why they do it. They don’t want to turn away potential clients.That is especially true with politics, where who and what you support has the potential for dividing people and pissing off 50% of your readers.

    But, still, the things you are passionate about should not have to be hidden.

    On Facebook just today, a writer who I consider to be a personal friend announced that she would block anyone who ventures into political discussions. I feel like having to hold back prevents be from showing my true self: who I am and what I believe. And it makes my posts sterile and lifeless.

    But if we strive to never offend and never offer a different perspective, how does that help us all learn to respect each other?

    I saw it in my post here on the refugee crisis. In some cases, the people who I thought had strong views didn’t show up and didn’t comment. At this point in my life, I have decided to just show up as myself. All the time. And I regret that it took me this long to get this.

    Obviously, your post has struck a chord with me today.

    • Danny Brown September 18, 2015 at 9:37 am

      Hi there Judy,

      I know what you mean. Politics is such a divisive issue, and it scares me to see some of the things my Facebook “friends” are posting when it comes to their own beliefs. I’ve unfriended a good few people who have shown their racist, bigoted side, especially when it comes to Obama. And I thought we were living on 2015, not 1520….

      Like you, I’m all for open discussion and even heated debate – but let’s remember to respect the topic up for discussion, as well as the people discussing it. It’d be a pretty boring world if we couldn’t say something without fear of repercussion. Hell, you see it already on social media, with the hate mobs and lynch mobs going after the smallest indiscretion.

      Sad state of affairs, but one we need to keep pushing back on, even it it makes us unpopular. Perhaps especially because it makes us unpopular….

  3. Marquita Herald September 17, 2015 at 8:17 pm

    Great article! I’ve always worked hard to open myself to different opinions and I’m passionate about free speech.

    The problem is most people don’t really g-e-t that free speech doesn’t mean only when you agree with what the other person has to say. You can’t pick and choose who to allow to share their opinions and call it free speech. We always have a choice whether or not to listen.

    I have a friend who is passionate about ending dog fighting which, even though it’s been illegal for decades, is still big business in our country.

    I’ve signed petitions and shared many of her posts, but where I draw the line is the never ending stream of gruesome photos of dogs who have been butchered. I know it happens, I hate that it happens, I’ll do my part to support the end, but I draw the line with a daily dose of horror so I’ve stopped the notifications and instead visit her page every few days to see what she’s up to.

    It may not be the perfect solution but it’s my way of respecting myself as much as my friend.

    • Danny Brown September 18, 2015 at 9:33 am

      Hey there Marquita,

      Man, you nailed it with your comparison of what others see as free speech – so many times I see people on Facebook use this, especially when discussing gun control, for example. But it seems the speech is only free when it comes to their opinions – all others are deluded…

      I know what you mean about the graphic images. It’s like when ISIS were beheading their prisoners, or the recent shootings of the TV crew live on air. People were sharing these images and videos, as opposed to pictures of the people that were killed, when they were in happier times (with their families, journalist jobs, etc).

      Like you say, we don’t need to see the horror to know it happens – and I’m pretty sure the families and relatives (and animal lovers, to your example) don’t need to be reminded of what happened, either…

  4. Ray Hiltz September 18, 2015 at 10:44 am

    As usual, Danny, you get right to what matters. When I grow up I want to be just like you.

    My grandfather was a “woodsy” guy.
    His biggest joy was to drive up to Northern New Brunswick to eel fish and hunt.
    He never brought home big game, always rabbits, partridges and the like.
    He’d recruit me into helping me skin and prep the game for dinners.
    He was a no-nonsense guy. Life was black and white with him. Diefenbaker bad, Pearson good. (I just dated myself.)

    A few years ago, I had the opportunity to visit a sweat lodge up in northern Ontario. I had just met my husband, Georges who was a chef at the time. Running a french bistro and being a vegetarian (for 19 years) was a challenge but not the reason I went to the lodge.

    After spending what seemed like a day inside this hot, moist, cedar infused black womb, I had a hallucination where I was standing on the banks of the Bay of Fundy.
    The time didn’t seem like the present, perhaps early 20th century as there were no signs of technology, no planes, overhead wires, no ships.

    I knelt by a fire that I assume I created on the beach. On the fire was an animal being roasted – don’t recall what, exactly.
    I was feeling uneasy as I watched it cook when I heard my grandfather’s voice, very loud and clear in his Acadian accented English.

    “Raymond, it is our place in nature to eat animals. But we must be thankful and show respect for their sacrifice.”
    (I paraphrase)

    I remember that hallucination vividly. After that, I went back to eating meat – though sparingly.

    I share this story with you because Charlie White reminded me of my Grandfather.
    He occupied himself with things he had control over.
    He was in control when he took his walks in the woods.
    He was lost indoors and always in Grammy’s way.
    He hated the television…which reminds me of something he’d say to me I sat in front of the boob tube switching back and forth between the two channels we got.

    “Hey, if you don’t like what’s on, there’s the off button. Go outside and play!”

    • Danny Brown September 18, 2015 at 11:58 am

      Hey there Ray,

      Damn, this is an awesome comment! I wish I’d met your grandfather, he sounds like just the kind of no BS type of guy to sit and have a few beers with. I love the lessons he imparted, and how he did that.

      A lot of people (myself included) are against trophy hunting. For me, if you’re going to hunt, do it because you’re actually hunting to “survive” as opposed to having something to stroke yourself over in your study. The fact your granddad makes that distinction well, and offers thanks to the animals, is awesome.

      See, this is why I can never understand bloggers that turn comments off, because then you’d miss such great wisdom as your comment shares – so thanks for that, sir!

  5. Tim September 18, 2015 at 11:54 am

    My wife is forever saying to me, “don’t worry about things you can’t change”. It annoys me because I know she’s right.

    I gave up on putting my opinion on Facebook/Twitter on some things shortly before the Scottish Independence Referendum. It was an unpleasant time on social media, particularly as I supported the Union.

    I’m more inclined to share my opinions now more than ever on my blog. That’s where I have more control over the reactions!

    • Danny Brown September 18, 2015 at 12:04 pm

      I hear you, mate – I’m Scottish, and some of the things coming out on Facebook over that whole devolution/independence thing were awful. Made me ashamed to be Scottish, truth be told.

      Like you say, at the end of the day, we control only so much – so why worry about the rest? Especially when it’s promoted by buffoons… 😉

      • Tim September 18, 2015 at 12:32 pm

        I suspect I think about things too much since I have a lot of time to do just that.

        Doing the housework is a great time to think; I just need to turn my mind to more fruitful endeavours (whatever they may be)!

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