Sticking To Our Guns

The phrase “stick to your guns” originated as a command given to sailors who manned guns on military boats, meaning they were to stay by their posts rather than seek cover, even when the boat was under attack.  Today it means to hold onto your convictions and stand up for your beliefs, even when others disagree or the evidence points to the contrary.  Unfortunately, it seems like too many people are choosing to stick to their guns these days, whether it is over issues of national importance or in their personal lives.

It’s one thing to be stubborn and insist on having things go your way frequently, but it’s another for a person to insist that he or she is right or has all the answers and correct viewpoints all the time too.  Some people just need to be right all the time, which makes them very difficult to work with and be around.

Unfortunately, I have plenty of experience with people like this, and there’s not a whole lot anyone can do to get them to consider that anyone else might know more about something than they do or be better at something than they are.  And forget trying to get them to see a different perspective.  Once they’ve made up their mind about something, it seems they only see and hear things through a filter that supports what they originally decided was the correct viewpoint or interpretation of a situation.  That makes it even more difficult to get them to see things differently, because they have built up a mound of incorrect evidence in their own minds.  Plus, the more anyone tries to convince them that they are wrong or maybe partially wrong, the more they dig in their heels and insist they are right.

Ironically, when it comes to an issue of national importance, gun control is a perfect example of people “sticking to their guns.”  I’ve seen plenty of statistics comparing the fifty states regarding gun violence vs how strict their gun laws are, which show that states with stricter laws have less gun violence.  I’ve also seen similar statistics about other countries such as Japan and Australia where they have much stricter gun laws than the United States and hardly any incidences of gun violence. I’m a numbers person, so that’s what helps form my opinion on various matters.  What I have NOT seen is statistics backing up the notion that more guns = less gun violence or more guns = a safer society.

I am also thinking about how the laws have changed over the years pertaining to what we are allowed to bring on an airplane. Each time there is an incident involving a box cutter, knife, bomb, or anything else, the rules and regulations get stricter and stricter. Even a dog getting put in an overhead bin gets a new law passed within a few days.  No one balks at these laws and we all follow the new procedures, even though it makes packing for and boarding an airplane take longer.  That’s because we know that planes are now extremely safe, and there is no need to fear getting killed or injured on an airplane or having it hijacked.  People are not insisting that we all be allowed to board the plane with a knife, gun, and box cutter, just in case anyone else on the plane pulls one out so that we can defend ourselves.  And no one is insisting that stewardesses be armed with these weapons, just in case, either. Furthermore, no one is thinking that because they are not allowed to bring guns or any of these these items on a plane, that they are not allowed to possess them at all, ever.  Their second amendment rights are not being infringed upon.  But, when it comes to common sense gun laws outside of a plane, somehow the same reasoning goes out the window.  Then it makes much more sense to many people that any limitation on gun sales is somehow infringing on their right to bear arms, and that more people carrying guns, particularly teachers, makes much more sense.  I don’t get it, and the statistics don’t seem to back those ideas up, but the more anyone tries to convince someone who thinks along these lines, the more they “stick to their guns.”

It seems like there are so many issues today where people dig in their heels, regardless of what the numbers indicate or the majority of people agree with.  The need to be right overshadows the need for facts or considering other positions or viewpoints.  This only leads to us being more divided and less united than ever as a country.

I think the same can be said for our personal lives too.  There is too much conflict because there are too many people not willing to listen to others because they are already experts on everything and have a difficult time admitting that maybe they aren’t.  Or maybe it’s just people in my personal life, but I don’t think so.   If you are one who tends to do more talking than listening and who needs to be right or have all the answers, perhaps it would be worth making the effort to be a better listener and consider that other people sometimes have a good idea or a valid perspective too.  Being open-minded is a good quality in my book.

Walk Out vs. Walk Up

The National School Walkout Day was this week, a day that was intended to be partly a memorial for the victims of the Parkland shooting and partly a day for teenage activism against gun violence.  I saw many different videos and descriptions of how various schools chose to participate.  I also heard about districts that threatened suspension for any student who did walk out.  Some schools had very organized events supported by administration, while others were more of a protest handled strictly by students.  As usual, there were very opposing views of what they day was all about and how it should be handled.

Likewise, I saw many social media posts urging the students to INSTEAD “Walk Up”, meaning walk up to someone who typically sits alone at the lunch table and invite them to sit with you, or walk up to someone and just say something nice, or anything along those lines.  The idea being that many of the shooters in these mass shootings have been loners who are angry because they have been excluded and are trying to get even.  So if we all make more of an effort to be more inclusive, then perhaps that will be a preventative measure.  Even without factoring in the shootings, focusing on being more kind and inclusive is always a good thing, so I like the idea.

What I don’t understand is why it has to be one OR the other.  What’s wrong with the students protesting peacefully in order to have their concerns and opinions heard AND making a conscious effort to be more inclusive and kind?  The two things don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

Unfortunately, that seems to be the case with so many issues today though, where so many people focus on one particular facet of what they believe the solution should be and don’t understand that one thing alone is not going to solve the problem.  Gun violence is a perfect example.  Stricter gun control is one option that seems to be successful in many other countries, which many people support.  But there are plenty of people who believe the answer is more guns.  And there are those who think we need to focus on bringing attention and more resources to mental health issues.  Then there is the devaluing of human life because of the exposure to violence and trauma either in real life or in video games, television, and movies that many think is the biggest contributing factor.

The problem is that there is not necessarily one thing we can blame and that needs to be changed.  We don’t have to focus on guns OR mental health, for example.  It all needs to be addressed.  But when people retreat to their corners and only want to focus on the one issue they think is most important or the only solution, then we will not make as much progress with this issue as we need to.  Or any others for that matter.  People need to be more open-minded and more willing to consider ALL of the aspects of this or any other issue that needs to be addressed and make it a priority to set aside our differences and work together to make some significant progress.  If we all continue to “stick to our guns” regardless of the evidence to the contrary and only focus on one aspect of the problem, we will go nowhere.

Incorrect Assumptions

I realized recently that the people in my life who think I spend a lot of time correcting them or others are the same people who frequently make incorrect assumptions about plenty of things.  Sometimes the incorrect assumptions are made about details pertaining to logistics, situations, or decisions being made.  Other times they are about my intentions, what I am thinking, what I am trying to say, how I will react to things, and so on.  Very few things bother me more than being completely misunderstood, having my intentions incorrectly being perceived as negative when they are not, and being accused of things I am not doing.

It’s very frustrating trying to have a conversation with someone who constantly interrupts me in order to respond defensively because they THINK they know what I am going to say and that it will be something negative, especially when I am not ever given the chance to say what I had intended.  Perhaps they think I am trying to tell them they won’t be able to do something they want to do, or sometimes they are assuming there is some hidden negative implication like I am trying to tell them they shouldn’t be doing something.  Often it is perceived that I am trying to criticize someone or control a particular situation when that is not my intent at all.  Not even close.  It is equally as frustrating to have a conversation with someone who responds to most of what I say with assumptions that are very incorrect, rather than ask questions and listen to all of what is being said before jumping in with the assumptions.  That means I spend a chunk of my end of the conversation correcting the misinformation they created and believe to be true.

Unfortunately, too many people listen to others with whatever filter they have formulated in their head based on their perception of the person or situation, and they hear only what they want to hear and see what they want to see that backs up their opinion or preconceived notion, which just adds to that incorrect perspective.  It’s very hard to undo that, especially if that person is not open-minded and objects to hearing anything that will negate their viewpoint.

Ironically, I don’t like having to correct people, but the perception is that I do because it becomes necessary when people are making such incorrect assumptions so frequently.  So it has become one more incorrect assumption that all I want to do is correct people.  When it comes to my intentions that are being questioned though, I am going to correct someone every time.

I’ve come to REALLY appreciate the people in my life who respect me enough to listen when I talk and take what I am saying or asking at face value without adding their own interpretation of what I might be implying, when in fact, I am often not implying anything at all.  Some people just like to find negatives where there aren’t any, and I don’t enjoy being around those people very much.  I’d rather surround myself with people who actually bother to hear what I have to say without putting words in my mouth or thoughts in my head that they will then hold against me … forever.  That leads to a lot less stress, drama, negativity, misunderstandings, misinformation, and necessary corrections.  Life is a whole lot easier when we give people the benefit of the doubt and are willing to hear each other out.

The Dance of Non-Verbal Communication

I have been taking a couple’s dance class recently, which has been making me think about the importance of non-verbal communication.  It is absolutely imperative in social dancing.  The man has to clearly communicate what he wants the woman to do, and she needs to be able to interpret things correctly in order to follow his non-verbal directions.  That is such a perfect metaphor for any kind of relationship because both communicating and interpreting are very important.

Some people give off very few non-verbal cues as to what they are thinking or feeling. That makes them hard to read and can lead to confusion, playing guessing games, or even tip-toeing around issues because the other person may not know how that person will react.  That’s been my experience, anyway.  On the other hand, I have experience with people who give off almost too much non-verbal communication.   Continue reading

The Reason For Tragedy And Heartbreak

No one likes to experience either one of these or watch our friends and loves ones have to experience them either.  Whether it’s a tragic accident, an unforeseen break-up, a suicide attempt, some form of hardship, the death of loved one or favorite celebrity, or any number of other situations, these experiences can be painful, devastating, and gut-wrenching.  We sometimes ask ourselves all kinds of questions including why it had to happen or what we (or whoever else) did to deserve whatever happened.  Some people really struggle with the answers to these and other questions.

To me, these things are there as reminders for us of so many things…

  • that life is precious and fragile and can be taken away at an instant
  • that nothing and no one should be taken for granted
  • that we are stronger and more resilient than we think we are
  • that we can face our fears and overcome them
  • that change is sometimes a good thing
  • that the people and relationships in our lives are more important than things
  • that we need to continually remind our loved ones how much they are loved
  • that others may seem fine on the outside but are struggling on the inside
  • that we need to be kind and understanding to one another and really listen
  • that we shouldn’t sweat the little things
  • that sometimes our words and actions are more hurtful than we realize
  • that we should accept and celebrate our differences
  • that together we are stronger, and so on.

Most of all, I think they are reminders that we need to continually take a step back and be grateful for what we have, even if it’s not much.  There is always something positive we can find to be thankful for, and there are always so many people going through situations that are far worse than our own. It’s all a matter of perspective.

Of course, this is all easier to think about when we are not the person going through the particular tragedy or heartbreak or while we are not in the midst of it ourselves. We may never get over the pain or disappointment of the given circumstances, but hopefully at some point we can at least get to a place where we have a more positive perspective of why these things happen and what they were trying to teach or remind us.  I don’t think enough people stop and consciously think about and appreciate all the positives in their life. Maybe if we did, we wouldn’t need so many reminders.

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Pushing People Away

It amazes me how many people I know who would rather push people away than work on making any changes that they can to improve a relationship, regardless of the type of relationship.  I guess it’s easier than doing some self-reflection and realizing that you are part of the problem and need to make some changes, apologize, and/or make up for something.  I do understand how hard it is to make changes for the better, even if you do realize that you need to do so.  But why is it so easy to do the opposite and behave even worse, which only pushes the other person away?

I’ve experienced this in different forms over the years, and I feel like I’ve been pushed so many times, that it doesn’t take much for me to push back at this point.  I wish that weren’t the case, but it is.  It’s hard to step back from that, and it makes it even more difficult to take steps in the right direction.  And it’s challenging to refrain from reacting the same way or even worse each time to the same repeated behavior.  Trying to keep motivated to make improvements when you feel like you are the only one who is interested in making the effort becomes difficult too.

It’s definitely easier to blame others for everything instead of admitting that you have made mistakes, have failed at something, or have flaws.   Continue reading

Maintaining Middle Ground

With some people, there doesn’t ever seem to be a middle ground.  Everything is black or white, all or nothing.  Either you’re on their side or completely against them.  I definitely know more than one person who fits this description, and it makes communication quite difficult sometimes.

One of the things that is difficult is trying to get a point across without them over-interpreting things as I sometimes call it, is the fact that they tend to interpret things as being one extreme or the other.  And unfortunately, the worst possible interpretation seems to be the one of choice most of the time.   Continue reading