This isn't a blog post about preferred pronouns. Though, that is an extremely important concept that you should familiarize yourself with and start practicing if you are not. Rather, this is about what I overhear on a daily basis. I hear just about everything. I don't necessarily eavesdrop, but my highly sensitive personality coupled with my handful of years teaching have caused me to be hyper-aware of what people are saying and doing on a daily basis. Last night, I was sitting at dance with the other moms waiting for their daughters to get done with their classes. I do this every Tuesday night, and even though I bring my book with me, with so many people around, it's inevitable that I overhear a conversation or two.
I hear the following sentence or variation of these sentences often: "We don't really like her" or "I don't understand her" or "She just doesn't get it." More often than not, I have no idea who this pronoun is referring to because, like I said, I'm not listening to the conversation. I just hear snippets of what they're saying. And, for the record, it's not just the dance building where I hear sentences like this. I hear them from students at work. I hear them in restaurants. Most of the time, it's "she" or "her," but I'm sure I've heard variations that include "he" and "him." And before I sound self-righteous, I'm sure sentences like this have come out of my mouth as well.
Last night, I got to thinking, "I wonder who she is?" Is she a teacher? Is she a friend? Is she a mother-in-law? I wonder what she would have to say if she heard the sentence come from the person saying it? I wonder if she'd be shocked or hurt or unfazed or confused? Then, I REALLY got to thinking, and I wondered, "How many times have I been the she that someone was talking about?" I make mistakes that I'm sure frustrate people, but I rarely do anything with malicious intent to make the lives of the people around me worse. When that thought crossed my mind, I realized something extremely important: most of the time we harbor anger, resentment, or confusion towards people who are simply living life in a way we can't completely understand, and those feelings towards their actions manifest in a way that makes us have ill feelings regarding the person doing them.
What does this mean practically? On a surface level, it's just a structural change in the sentence. Instead of saying, "I don't understand her," we can say, "I don't understand the actions." However, in order for you to see a benefit, you have to change the way you think, and you have to truly commit to looking at the actions instead of the person. Did a teacher reprimand your child in a way you disagree with? Momma bear, I feel you. If I thought there was an injustice done to my child, I would be ON FIRE. However, I've also been a teacher who has been having a bad day and let my emotions take over which caused an interaction with a student to escalate farther than it should have. And guess what? I'm still a decent human, and I would gladly apologize or listen to the other side. When we place our frustrations and anger solely on people and stop there, that anger is empty. She doesn't know you're angry in the dance waiting room. And she would probably gladly explain herself or try to fix the situation if she knew. When we place our frustrations and anger on actions first, analyze those actions, and try to understand those actions, we can move towards a healing that is beneficial to both parties involve. Sure, some people suck. And, if you analyze her actions and motives and she still seems off, then, by all means, feel disgust and hurt. However, empty negativity is contagious and often draws more from you and the person you're talking to than the person you're directing it towards.