Never worry about what I’m doing. Only worry about why you’re worried about what I’m doing. — Unknown
Have you had experience with busybodies? I’m going to go out on a limb here and say you probably have, because they seem to be everywhere. They were always plentiful, but since the advent of social media, they are inescapable. It sometimes feels like everyone is intent on running my life for me. Surprisingly, they all feel they can do a better job at it, when they know little or nothing about me. Perfect strangers whom I’ve never personally met, and whose only connection with me is social media, think they not only have the right, but the responsibility to tell me what I should and should not be doing with my life.
So here’s the deal. It was just pointed out to me by a good friend that instead of defending myself to these people, I could simply refuse to give them any further information. Wow! What a concept! I don’t have to defend myself to these people.
Be very careful when I comment on the posts of others that you are not contentious. It is perfectly fine to offer a suggestion to someone, but when they tell you that your suggestion won’t work for them, back off. Don’t argue. Why feel the need for contention?
For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another (3 Nephi 11:29).
Here are some practical examples and suggestions:
Someone has posted that he is having a problem with something. It is okay to offer one suggestion. The suggestion must not be couched in language that may cause contention, but in language that will show your concern and your willingness to offer a solution.
The person may come back and say, “I already tried that,” or “That won’t work in my situation,” or “I can’t do that.” You must not cause contention by arguing why your suggestion will work. The words from you should be, “I’m sorry you’re having such a hard time,” or “I know you will find a solution that will work for you,” or (in the right set of circumstances) “I’m so sorry you are going through this. I will pray for you.” CAUTION: Never offer to pray for someone and then not follow through. If it is serious enough that you would offer to pray, the person needs to feel your prayers.
Let’s go back to the quote at the beginning of this article, “Never worry about what I’m doing. Only worry about why you’re worried about what I’m doing.” I don’t think this means that we shouldn’t worry about our friends. I think what this really means is, “Allow me to use my agency, just as you are allowed to use yours.” The second sentence means that maybe a little self-analysis or introspection is in order to understand why you feel the need to take away someone’s right to use his agency and run his own life.
We all feel the need to be right. We want to solve the world’s problems with our very own solutions. We want to be validated by everyone around us that we are smart and have all the answers. Unfortunately, what our friends need is our love, concern, and support. We often miss the opportunity to support our friends by trying so hard to be right. It never occurs to us that our friends are every bit as smart as we are and are perfectly capable of making their own decisions. It never crosses our minds that our friends have all the facts if front of them, and we only have the smidgen of detail they decided to post publicly on social media.
That brings up another point. It is not cool to bully our friends into posting more details about their situation than they really want made public. Often things are posted in hasty frustration without thinking things through. As friends, we need to realize that there are almost always things left unsaid. By putting our friends on the defensive and making them defend their actions, we often bully them into making public way too many details for their good. Be mindful that emotions play a large role in what a lot of people post online. Don’t play into that emotion. Know when to stay quiet. Know when it’s time to back off.
A friend is one to whom one may pour out all the contents of one’s heart, chaff and grain together, knowing that the gentlest of hands will take and sift it, keep what is worth keeping, and with the breath of kindness blow the rest away. — George Eliot
When our friends pour out the contents of their hearts, whether in person or via social media, be those gentle hands. Keep what is worth keeping, and blow away those things that were said from frustration and anger. Blow them so far away that you won’t be tempted to be contentious. You don’t have to be right all the time. Instead of trying to be right, try to be a friend.
Tudie Rose is a mother of four and grandmother of ten in Sacramento, California. You can find her on Twitter as @TudieRose. She blogs as Tudie Rose at http://potrackrose.wordpress.com. She has written articles for Familius. You will find a Tudie Rose essay in Lessons from My Parents, Michele Robbins, Familius 2013, at http://www.familius.com/lessons-from-my-parents.