I’m writing this perched on the floor of a hospital room. Just across from me, my beautiful wife is dozing peacefully in a post- operative slumber. As procedures go, it was what the surgeon referred to as “routine”, but as with all operations there were risks – in this case of paralysis. So for the last couple of weeks I’ve been very on edge about it, all the while trying not to let on to my wife my increasing nerves. If I’m being more honest, I’ve been scared.
I knew the risks of something going wrong were very small. The consultant explained everything to us very clearly and calmly, and left little room for misinterpretation or doubt. But while this should have assuaged my fears as it did those of my wife, as the surgery came closer so did my paranoias and trepidations. With them, however, came rare clarity.
It’s all too easy to get caught up in things that, at the end of the day, just aren’t important. The riots around the UK last week brought shame to a proud nation; like many, they left me personally feeling deeply saddened and justifiably angry. But the perverse spite, intense vitriol and extreme opinions I saw voiced on Facebook from friends who I thought were more intelligent and reasoned left me almost as dismayed as the riots themselves.
A couple of days later, I stumbled across a blog post in the comments of which all-out war seemed to be raging. A well-known blogger gave a strong viewpoint, someone disagreed, someone else backed them up, the blogger got defensive and all hell broke loose with every man and his dog wanting to have their say. It was neither constructive or necessary. And then I heard a story of someone getting absurdly upset because a colleague didn’t wear a tie to a client meeting. It’s all nonsensical. And I have to ask: where does all this aggravated posturing come from?
Having spent the last couple of weeks worrying about my wife and daughter, and the last couple of days surrounded by surgeons and nurses, there’s no shadow of a doubt to me that blog posts, status updates and tweets are really not important in life. I could have responded to the Facebook posts about the riots that upset me or joined in with the blog fight. But how would that possibly have benefited me?
The point is that YOU HAVE A CHOICE.
You have the choice whether or not to feed the comment troll, whether or not to read provocative Facebook posts, whether or not to get involved. The world would be boring if we all had the same opinions, and we’d never learn anything if we didn’t have debates that challenged our beliefs. But you can pick and choose where to have those, when they’re valuable and when they’re not, and how to react if you do.
There’s massive value in having the wisdom to know the difference between constructive debate that leads to learning and self-improvement, and getting involved in a scrap simply because someone has offended your sensibilities. In most cases, turning the other cheek is not only dignified and brave, but it’s also far more beneficial and far less stressful.
So here’s a question for you: what really matters to you?
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