Right now in Louisiana many are celebrating the carnival season. We are eating King Cakes at parties, at work, and in classrooms. These decadent confections are stuffed with cinnamon and sugar or cream cheese or fruit fillings then topped with icing and sprinkled with purple, green and gold sugar. This is the time when over the top is the norm.
When is it too much?
Food, friends, politics, opinions, fear…
This excessive season has also felt like an intense and never-ending Thanksgiving dinner. You know the times when you stuff yourself while trying to drown out someone talking about how stupid other people are because of what they believe. Sitting at the table with friends and family is uncomfortable.
Recently, I have been feeling uncomfortable a lot. The generalizing and finger-pointing is not helpful… “those people”… “angry women”… “ignorant young people”… “they don’t represent me!” Instead of keeping the conversations about the issues and facts, people are ridiculing other people or groups of people, and some who have nothing to do with the issues. I have mentioned in my blog before that grouping or labeling people simplifies things, but it is dangerous.
Last week a woman who did not know me suggested that I must not be a Christian. She never heard or asked what I believed, and the only reason she made that assumption was the fact that I was defending a group’s right to voice their opinions. I did state a few facts – statistics that cannot be disputed – but again, I never stated what I believed yet she thought she knew my heart. I walked away.
America is a beautifully diverse country. We “group up” with people who agree with us, but we are not one-dimensional, and we go in and out of groups often. There are soccer moms that run corporations. There are Native American women who have the same issues as women who are Asian. The flavor of our country is constantly changing and has been stirred by young and old, men and women, Native Americans, English colonists, Latin Americans, Africans, and the list goes on and on.
People who are different from us, challenge us and help us grow, but we have to listen. If we always keep to ourselves or the people who are just like us, we become stagnant. Change is important. If we are not changing, we are not growing. But change is difficult, and sometimes it does not bring out the best in us. I understand feeling that the only way you can be heard is to shout. Being consumed by someone else’s thoughts, opinions, and ideas can make you either fight back or shrink inside yourself. Whether it is an abusive relationship or a crowd of people with differing opinions, it can be hard to speak up. If you have been backed into a corner you may come out screaming, or if you have been quiet for a long time you may get excited and shout when you are around people who understand.
It is in the passion and sometimes the argument that significant revelations are revealed, but generalizing and never taking time to get to know people, dig for the facts, or listen to all of the sides is counterproductive. This makes people feel out of control and act desperately to gain control. That is when people criticize or attack others. We all have done it. We forget that we do not have to surrender who we are or completely alter our views when we simply look at an issue from a different prospective. Understanding others is valuable in finding solutions. It may not stop an argument, but it will make it productive and positive.
In our competitive, fast-paced, get-the-news-out-quickly world, our brains are not able to handle the bombardment of information. We are not able to properly sort the incoming messages. It is our responsibility to slow everything down so we can better understand.
When it is too much…
It is good to take time and have a piece of King Cake – enjoy that sweet indulgence! Then take a walk. Too much of one thing is not good. Too much of one news source is not beneficial. Take a break and look in the mirror. How many times have you been angry this week and why? Go for a run, kick a rock, write down your thoughts, call a friend – reconnect with the people closest to you, including yourself. Enjoy some downtime, research the issues, and look around to clear your head and improve your vision.
Breathe for a moment, reflect, and remember that no two people are alike. No two experiences are the same. This is what makes our lives exciting and also brings us turmoil. It takes work to understand each other, but it is worth it. When it is too much is when we reach out and help each other, not with a pointed finger, but with a hand.