Yesterday, Mama Hayes and I were out and about, doing cool stuff like we do, and we had a fantastic chat about how to share our beliefs without peeving people off.
Rewind ten years ago. I was in third year university and easily combustible (I am now only at medium combustion level). This passionate, quick to defend, argue and confront (and get offended) was the result of my discovery about what my core belief systems were and the shock and despair that others I trusted and valued did not feel the same as me.
I thought that if I just explained sufficiently others would see my (obviously correct) way of thinking. Instead these "discussions" spiraled into arguments that resulted more often in not in me getting upset and feeling ridiculous. My breaking point was in 2005 where my at the time boyfriend's roommates started baiting me on purpose with misogynistic comments or strategically placed articles on the fridge since my anger was such a sure entertainment.
I gave up completely trying to change people's minds. I avoided all IRL discussions about feminism, climate change, politics and religion beyond to state how I felt. At one point I remember an audiologist asking me if as a pagan I "believed in the sun and shit". It was offensive and I wasn't ready to share something so personal with someone I knew would be condescending. I told him I didn't want to talk about it- which felt a bit cowardly.
Neither was this hiding productive. The "EcoYogini" blog has helped bring a measure of balance here, where in this space I get to write and share what I am passionate about with a (99% of the time) fantastic readership and commenting peeps.
I have realized that I can still stay true to what my beliefs are without impinging them on others. Yes, I am disappointed that many still believe that feminism is either wrong or no longer necessary. That our environment and planet isn't in dire needs of protection and our lifestyles needn't change.
I can also recognize, however, that I don't like being made to feel a) stupid or b) guilty. I can understand why sometimes it's hard to make changes, and who am I to know what another person experiences in their daily life?
Half the time when someone comments in a defensive way on my blog (or on something I post on facebook) it's because I have implied that what they are doing or believe in is 1) wrong or 2) harmful. Many people are essentially good (I believe this in any case) and don't go out to abuse other people (feminism topics) or ruin the health of their family and planet.
Empathy means a really pragmatic dose of putting yourself in someone else's shoes (to a certain limit) without judgement.
For example, I no longer am offended when someone tells me they are praying for my soul. If I believed that only souls who are saved will experience "Heaven" and all others will suffer, I would find it extremely distressing that someone I cared about was going to suffer in the afterlife. Praying for me doesn't harm me, or impinge on my belief in the Goddess.
So. Back to how should we share what we are passionate about without offending? Social media is a funny place- it's difficult to gage reactions, to control how information is taken and to immediately clarify. People will get offended, and if you care about them, apologizing for offending is always a good step. We don't do that enough.
And perhaps it's useful to recognize when it makes sense to respond and when it makes sense to let it go. Not everyone needs to think exactly as I do. Not everyone should practice yoga. It's ok. We all have different and valuable perspectives to bring to our relationships.
It's insulting and demeaning to the other person to assume that they don't feel or think the same way you do because they simply lack certain knowledge or education.
(In the end, if a person is being particularly offending on facebook, trolling you, you can always simply click the "unfriend" button. Are they worth the drama in your life?)