Tips for Fishing and Living # 63

Tip #63:

“An angler, sir, uses the finest tackle, and catches his fish scientifically – trout for instance – with the artificial fly, and he is mostly a quiet, well-behaved gentlemen. A fisherman, sir, uses any kind of ‘hooks and lines, and catches them anyway; so he gets them it’s all one to him, and he is generally a noisy fellah, sir, something like a gunner.”

 Dr. George Washington Bethune, 1847~

Sometimes we need to be well-behaved, act kindly, and be gracious; the situation requires of us to use this approach. Often it then requires us to choose to keep our mouth shut and to politely listen. Then there other times we need to be that “noisy fellah” to show up and confront. We need to speak up and make some noise. The expression is to ruffle some feathers. These are those times we need to tell our truth, or else be mistakenly judged as agreeing with what is being peddled. Also we run the risk of letting an important opportunity for making something right what is not right.

Someone recently used an old expression in regards to a good approach for marital success. They said marriage requires that each party have the ability to “choose their battles wisely.” This is a valid point, yet it can also be used as a cop-out for not speaking up or taking action regarding injustices or offense behaviors. In such cases the abusive one thinks what they are doing/saying is acceptable.

I go further and say when we do choose to speak up we need to say exactly what it is we want, and not simply speak about or against things we don’t want. It’s pretty easy to just speak against certain things. But do we also stand up for what it is we do want in place of some not-so-good ways? For instance, can we talk up how we want justice and equal opportunities for everyone? And can we articulate what this would look like?

I recently listened to a man describe how he stopped a co-worker from telling a racist joke in front of him and some other people. It takes courage and a willingness to endure some likely ridicule and rejection for doing so. He acknowledged how uncomfortable this was for him, but how he knew he had to do this out of his own integrity. 

There is a handmade sign in front of one of our neighbors’ home that reads:

“Treat racism like Covid-19:

  • Assume you have it.
  • Listen to experts about it.
  • Don’t spread it.
  • Be willing to change your life to end it.
  • Fight for a solution.”

This is an excellent approach to the systemic racism and social injustice that is embedded within our society.

I am advocating we do all of this with love. There are also two kinds of love – or rather two ways of expressing love. There is the expression of love that is a caring love. This is the most popular and the one we most often utilize. It is the kind and generous and mostly listening expression of love. We listen while often remaining silent as we attempt to take in this upset person while trying to accept what the he or she is doing or saying. Perhaps they need to vent, or cry, or are in such a terrible state that we intuit this isn’t the right time to do anything other than show support. We can see they cannot take in another perspective at this time, so we simply do our best to care. We’ll cut them some slack realizing that he/she is coming from some trauma or pain or grief. Perhaps later we’ll do more.

There is also the other kind of love. This love is expressed as a challenging love. This kind of love is the love we use to potentially draw the other person to a better place – to help him/her step up and be all they are capable of being – of getting them to that “more evolved place” we suspect resides within them.

So we literally challenge them to be and act in ways they may not even think they are capable of being. We take a stand to convince them otherwise. It is like saying, “I know you are capable of more than this way you are presently acting,” or, “This is not your best, and I know you can do much better.”

Usually we are not as eager to go this route and express this kind of love. It is certainly a riskier love and often we feel we’re being prickly expressing this way of loving this person. Part of our hesitancy has to do with our wanting to avoid rebuttal or rejection. They may react poorly; yell and scream at us. They might tell us they want nothing further to do with us. If we already have a positive relationship with them we might have some leverage to go this route, but it’s still risky. It is more possible to do so if we truly come from a place of love as we challenge. This is like saying to them, “Because I love you, you deserve to know what I believe about this…” 

It’s important to know the difference between criticism and critique. Criticism is like saying to another person, “You’re a bad person.” This is never good. Critique has to do with the person’s actions as being misguided, incorrect or faulty.  

Which expression of love to use requires we use some discernment. We need to take in the given situation, what our relationship with this other person requires, and what is at stake. This will dictate which way we are required to love. Both ways are good while at the same time either can be appropriate or inappropriate. Usually we over-use the first expression of loving – caring love.

We’ll think we are being caring when what we’re really doing is using caring as a guise, a cover-up, for our own anxiety. We’ll then fall short in challenging or stepping up due to our anxiousness. We may be anxious about upsetting ourselves or others so we remain nice or caring. We over-function this way in order to relieve our discomfort of seeing someone in an anxious state, as opposed to doing what may be the better course of action for them.  Our feelings interfere with our ability to provide what is needed – a challenging love.

Right now we are in the midst of a major cultural shift. There is plenty anger and outrage. And for far too long there has been too much silence. Overall, too much toleration and blind denial. We have tolerated intolerance. Sometimes this has come about out of a misguided belief regarding freedom of speech. An example of this is when a KKK group was given permission to march in a city. Any group that promotes violence towards and even the killing of others does not have the right to march under the so-called banner of free speech. Responsibilities comes along with our freedoms.

The pandemic, along with the long down time, has made many more conscious of what is important. As a result many people are starting to become acutely aware of the inequities that are reality for so many.

Regarding this current time of coping with the pandemic, Oprah, in her June issue of O Magazine, writes in her monthly column called: what I know for sure, that “we have gotten a time out and it required a reset so we could see without obstruction what is essential.” She further states her hope that coming from this time out we each get the lessons we most need so we can move forward with a desire to heal ourselves and our planet.

Oprah ends her essay with a stern warning that, “if we don’t learn from being literally sent to our rooms, when we finally come out, the next challenge will be even harder.”

What she offers, I believe, is an excellent example of being both caring and challenging. Let us take her love to create our nation into its true potential.