My dearest friend in high school had a disarming way of saying exactly what was on her mind. She didn't care a whit for what other people thought about her utter lack of subtlety. Those who loved her understood how she was and overlooked any perceived offense, those who didn't know or love her didn't merit any notice on her radar.
How I envied her.
For a while I even fancied that I was the same. Saying precisely what was on my mind was my modus operandi for ages 17 through um . . . about the time I became a missionary. It was odd really because Aussies are known for shooting straight from the hip--their brutal honesty was shocking beyond belief sometimes. (Ohmygosh! Did you notice that huge zit on your nose???!!?? Um, yeah, thanks, I did strangely enough.) I think my care about how other perceived me stemmed a lot from the fact that I was no longer just speaking for myself. I wore a black name tag that professed to the world that I represented a lot of interests: my surname made me a part of a family, the name of the Church made me an official spokesperson, but perhaps most importantly were the words JESUS CHRIST in all caps letters, overshadowing everything else on the tag. People might form opinions about Him based on their interaction with me.
And yet, Christ himself wasn't afraid of offending when real bluntness called for it.
My post-mission days never saw me completely revert to the person I was before (thank goodness for that), but I sometimes still wonder who the "real" me is--the person who blurted out whatever was on her mind, too often mistaking bitter sarcasm for wit? Or the person I was on my mission who would smile sweetly through all kinds of shocking revelations people found themselves to willing to give?
As seems to be the case with nearly everything in my life, the truth is probably some where in the middle. I know this will sound odd to some of you, as my writings here don't often shirk from controversy. (I am probably the same in person, too.) However, when the argument strays into the personal or the tone takes that perceptible drop in civility, I find my heart beating faster and my hands clammy. A slightly nauseous feeling sits in my stomach and I'm suddenly consumed with guilt for having hurt someone's feelings. Even potentially. In "real" life, I tend to keep my opinions a little closer to the chest, not wanting to wreck the potential for friendships because I was too blunt or too outspoken too soon.
Recently I read a blog, following a link from a trusted page to an interesting name, and found myself confronted with some pretty in-your-face political ideology, much of it at odds with my own thoughts. It was clear that many of the person's comment-ers and followers were like- minded, and though I might have said a good many things (my brain was so full of things to say that I could hardly form a coherent sentence), I refrained. I knew it would be useless, first of all. I also knew that what might make me feel better for a moment would probably not in the long run. I also knew I wouldn't be able to keep myself from checking back on the blog no doubt to find myself vilified and grilled. And for what?
My peace of mind would be, at least momentarily, deeply shaken. In addition, I would have stirred somebody else up to even greater anger than they already carried.
At the same time, just as with my friend from high school, I held a sort of grudging admiration for the writer of the blog. She clearly didn't give a damn who disagreed with her or if the whole world knew it.
Though the blog was anonymous. Interesting. So maybe she does care.
And, as it turns out, so do I. I care if people like me. I am concerned when I offend somebody, particularly a family member. If I am sarcastic in blog of Facebook comment, I obsess a bit about whether or not the person picked up on my tone. I care about whether or not somebody's perception of me affects their perception of the LDS Church, or Christians or my family or my husband or my children.
No doubt most of you have read that allegorical book "You Are Special" about the sweet little puppet who is made fun of by the others of his kind--their labels and criticisms sticking to him like glue. That is, these things stick to him until he meets his loving Maker in whose opinion he learns better to trust. I love that story. I love the idea that God's opinion should matter more to us than others' opinions.
But I'm just not there yet.
Please, chime in, do you care what others think of you? And I mean, PLEASE chime in: my whole point is that I do care what you think. Or don't chime in. Your silence will teach me to look to other sources for validation.