I have a dear family friend who, whenever our families get together, we always end up after dinner in the living room having a hearty debate about something, anything - everything. Topics range from gun control to media to the differences between Canadians and South Africans. Yes, voices become enthusiastically loud and blood pressure rises. But here's the thing - our debates are always respectful and engaging. And they always end in a hug and a kiss. Oh, and they also always end with each of us walking away with a new perspective. Quite simply, our "disagreements" are quite fun!
A friend shared her opinion recently, with a not so positive result. She posted a response to a comment on facebook and then her post was almost immediately deleted by the recipient. That person didn't like the difference of opinion (respectful difference of opinion, I might add) and the way to deal with that was to hit delete. Erase it and pretend it had never appeared. It made me kind of sad.
The thing that makes me really sad is that so often we hold back an opinion or a point of view because we are afraid of the response that we will get. We see it all the time with mental illness. People who live with mental illness will often remain quiet because of the stigma attached. Whether real or perceived, stigma, and other people's opinions of us, are pretty powerful things.
Recently on Twitter I referred to depression as a disease. This resulted in a small, short debate between me and two of my followers. The debate was about whether the word "disease" was appropriate to use in relation to depression. I argued that it is as much a disease as diabetes or cancer. I also felt (and feel) strongly that we need to shock people into understanding the seriousness of mental illness. The other two preferred to not give depression such power. And I completely understand that. This debate was, to be honest, pretty awesome in my opinion! Here we were, in a public forum, speaking about a topic that is often only whispered. The fact that we were even talking about depression at all was huge. I loved it!
OK, full disclosure here: I do like to think that I am right about 98% of the time! I know that in actuality the percentage is not that high (maybe 97.5%). I also know that the times that I successfully fight the urge to stifle the noise of differing opinions, I come out the winner in the equation. Why? Because I learn something. And isn't that really the whole point of life, to learn and grow? I think so. And let's not forget, 98% of the time I am right...
P.S. Dedicated to my mom and dad who taught me to speak my truth, even when it's unpopular (NOTE: sorry to all my pre-school classmates whom I told Santa wasn't real. A bit too much honesty there!)