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Bad day.

March 9, 2010

Do you ever let someone else’s conflict affect you?  As if you were the one saying the stupid, mean, hurtful things instead of them?  Does it ever sit in your chest and make your heart beat more slowly, as if it were afraid to make any noise that could be offensive or call any more attention to you?

I do.  Not always, but enough.

I am a peaceful person.  I truly, honestly hate conflict, confrontation, anything that could hurt someone or myself.  I don’t like to inflict pain on others, preferring instead to reason and compromise.  I’m not saying I don’t ever face opposition, there are certain things, certain topics, certain people, that I am willing to fight for.  If someone tries to hurt my friends or family, I stand up for them in whatever way I can.  But I always try listening, compromise, and reasoning before anything else.

And I’m not saying that I’ve never hurt anyone.  But I always regret it.  Forgiving others is easy, but forgiving yourself…  You can’t give yourself the benefit of the doubt.  You know exactly what happened, and why, and you have to face that ugly side of yourself.

Today someone stood up in class and said that they couldn’t pay attention because it was so nice outside.  We’re studying Romanticism, and she meant that she was empathizing with the Romantic poets and their love of nature.  But that’s not what she said.  And that’s not what the professor heard.  The offended tone in his voice when he said, “Okay, well then I think you should just go,” left an unsettling burn in my stomach.  I wanted to shout out that it wasn’t what she meant, and that there was an explanation that wasn’t hurtful to anybody, but I couldn’t.  And she felt the burn of embarrassment, of false accusation, of hurt pride, and clammed up.   I wanted to take the pain away from both of them, caused by a simple misunderstanding, but something pulled me into silent introversion.

This makes me wonder, as many have before me… Is my desire for peace mere cowardice?  Should I have spoken up? Would I, in a comparable yet more significant situation, keep my mouth shut instead of helping reconcile misunderstandings and contribute to peacefulness?

It’s always hard to look at yourself objectively, especially when you don’t like what you see.  Thinking of myself as a coward made today a difficult one to get through.  But I think that allowing myself to see that possibility, that reality, that weakness, could help me keep myself from falling further victim to its pull.  Today’s incident meant little in the grand scheme of things, it was a small rift between and student and a professor, but maybe I can take the burn in my core and turn it to something useful.  Maybe next time it will matter.  Maybe next time I’ll speak up.

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