Friday, July 17, 2015

Don’t Take This Personally, But …

Whenever someone starts a conversation with the words, “Don’t take this personally, but …” it seems the person being spoken to will most certainly take it personally.

In addition, I’ve learned an interesting phenomenon when starting any sentence, and in the middle adding the word “but” as a transition. It has the effect of negating anything that came before it.

For example, I may say to one of my daughters, “You look lovely, but you should really comb your hair before you go.” What did they hear? Did they hear that I said they look lovely? Most likely not. Instead, they heard that they need to comb their hair.

Here’s another one: “You’ve been a great employee all year, but due to budget constraints, you won’t be getting a raise.”

See what I mean?

Therefore, when someone says, “Don’t take this personally, but …” and then gives you bad news, criticism, or states an opinion different than your own, it’s kind of hard not to take it personally. To which, of course, the person who gives you the news says, “Hey! I told you not to take this personally!” (As if that absolves them from any fault.)

There has been a lot of debate, for lack of a better word, about certain social issues recently. While the heart of the debate may be rational and logical, emotions tend to get in the way, clouding the issue and creating hard feelings on both sides. People take it personally.

In the case of same-sex marriage, from what I’ve been told by those who support it, the heart of the issue is that they want the same legal rights as traditionally married couples. From my opinion, the problem isn’t about the legal rights, as much as the definition of the word “marriage.”

That word, marriage, connects with deeply held beliefs by many people. There are quite a number of people who support equal legal rights for same-sex couples, but don’t think it should be called a marriage.

Those on the other side of the argument, those in favor of same-sex marriage, often claim that what others believe should have no impact on them getting the same legal rights for everyone. For things to be equal, it needs to have the same name—that is, marriage.

Since both sides’ positions are tied deeply to what they believe, many take it personally when someone else disagrees with them.

The challenge, then, comes when name calling, hateful words, disrespectful activities, and other negative actions are directed to someone else—just because they believe differently. People on both sides of the same-sex marriage issue are guilty of this, and it is a shame.

In any healthy relationship, one of the key factors is learning to agree to disagree. Shocking as it may seem to some, you can disagree with someone and still treat them kindly and with respect.

Therefore, instead of saying, “Don’t take this personally, but …” may I be so bold as to suggest that honest, sincere kindness towards another person, even one you disagree with, will work wonders when acknowledging you do not agree with them.

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