Lifestyle and Identity

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One of my favorite authors began a conversation about love and disagreeing with someone’s lifestyle.  She said that you can’t love her if you disagree with what she does.  The whole context she used is that who we are is tied into our lifestyle so if we disagree with what someone does then we don’t love them.  I honestly felt angry when I heard this at first because I didn’t see how she tied our actions so entirely to our definition of who we are.  I think there needs to be a better delineation between lifestyle/actions and who we are. 

Our lifestyle is comprised of the things we say and do and what we make of our experiences.  WHO WE ARE may determine what we do, that is true, but what we do isn’t always so deeply tied to our identity.  We don’t have to define people by their actions even if it may be an indicator of who they are.  For example, I can’t stand that my son talks back.  He is really sassy and he likes to do things that could physically hurt him.  I hate that he does this—but that isn’t who he is.  Who he is, is a curious, energetic, intelligent four year old boy exploring boundaries and limits.  I love HIM.  The fact that he doesn’t want to listen to me at the moment doesn’t make him a terrible person—a momentary tantrum is not who he IS– nor does the fact that I want him to do what he’s told.  We are learning together.

And that is the key.  When someone we love does something we don’t like that doesn’t mean we have to hate that person, rather we need to see it as a learning experience—for everyone involved.  I think there is an inherent fear in losing that person because they are doing something we don’t normally associate with them.  People change, they evolve, and as I mentioned in yesterday’s post, evolution is both necessary and scary.  We have to understand that one person’s beliefs don’t infringe on our rights (in most cases). Life isn’t about either/or it’s about the AND.  We can disagree AND still love each other.

At the end of the day, I understood what this author was trying to get at.  She had spent so many years living in a way that ultimately wasn’t her.  So when she expressed herself and felt rejection, she equated that with danger and being cut out. I’m not saying that doesn’t happen—people can be cruel and make hurtful decisions because they don’t understand change.  But we need to understand that some change takes a moment to grasp for other people as well.  It is never our job to dim the light of who we are in order to be accepted, but it is our job to understand that when we make changes in our lives, other people may not understand right away.  All we can do is stand fast in who we are and create the space for people to get on board when they are ready.  Just because they aren’t there now doesn’t mean they won’t be.  And if someone doesn’t support a change you’re making, that isn’t a reason to not honor who you are.  Stay strong and keep going. 

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