Keep your peace or prove you’re right?
Today, I want to talk about wanting to keep your peace vs. the urge to get your point across to win an argument.
I had a pretty funky weekend.
I went to an art festival with someone, and parking was a nightmare. We finally found a well-hidden parking garage open to the public for free and quickly eased our way in…only to discover there were absolutely no parking spots available.
A lot of other people had parked in spaces that were clearly not intended as parking spaces, but that were generally accepted as fair game given that there was nothing else one could do!
I spotted one such space, and given that it was large enough for our car, I began to park there.
The person I was with objected to this particular space (or perhaps to my lack of parallel parking skills) and decided to park the car herself. As she was doing so, lo and behold – she spotted people entering the parking garage to leave, which meant a parking space (a real one) would become available in seconds.
She promptly put the car in reverse and hurried to catch it.
The only problem was, what she didn’t see and what I could see since I was standing outside of the car at this point was that another car that had since entered the parking garage was already waiting for the space with their blinker on! I tried to call out to alert her to this but she didn’t hear me.
Cue the internal melodrama of my poor highly sensitive being. I stared in horror as my companion ‘stole’ the parking space from the ones who were waiting for it. I cringed. I was mortified.
But the saga does not end here. Oh no. Apparently, my friend had barked up the very wrong tree. The passenger in the waiting car actually got out of her vehicle (high heels and all), tapped angrily at my friend’s window, and proceeded to berate her.
Oh God, I thought. I wanted to crawl under a car and disappear.
I kept my distance for as long as I could, hoping they would sort out the problem between themselves, hoping moreso that the ‘waiting car’ crew would just move on, or that my friend would back out of the space – anything, really!
Instead, the altercation only escalated. Feeling sick and anxious, I finally approached the scene. The driver of the waiting car (still behind the steering wheel) started calling out to me that she was going to call the police. (A bit much, if you ask me).
And the one who’d gotten out of the car was reaching an all-time-high with her yells, which were starting to become insults. Wait a minute, I thought. Yes, my friend acted inappropriately in this instance…but these people were starting to blow things out of proportion! The yelling was unnecessary — so were the scathing words. So were the threats.
I was going to tell the person I was with “let’s just get out of here”, but I have to admit to you that my pride got in the way. These people were turning into animals. They were essentially trying to bully us/intimidate us into running away with our tails between our legs.
Had they simply been diplomatic, I would’ve been more than thrilled to tell my friend to get out of the space. But their tactics didn’t sit well with me. They were being downright mean in all honesty, and I wanted to prove a point. I wanted to show them that the way they were going about this was wrong. If we backed out of the space now, we’d only be condoning their behavior, right?
This is how yours truly, someone who absolutely abhors confrontations, ended up getting involved in an argument with two complete strangers on an otherwise beautiful, sunny Saturday afternoon on the upper level of a parking garage.
There was NO WAY that we were going to back out of that space now – not with the cruelty they were showing (to give you an idea, “go back to your country” left their mouths if you can believe it. And pretty ignorant, given that my friend and I were both born in America). They even threatened to use pepper spray on us, as if we were animals.
Anyway, long story short, they eventually gave up and went on their merry way. Funny enough, a parking space just a few cars down had become available during all that fussing. Yes, I thought. We won! We sure showed them!
Then why did I feel like crap for the rest of the day? I couldn’t even enjoy the art festival. I kid you not – apart from some pretty awesome steampunk items, I cannot remember a SINGLE exhibit that I saw! It’s all a blur to me! It’s like I ghosted right through the event.
I felt nauseous. I felt anxious. I kept wondering if these people would slash our tires, take a knife to the car’s exterior, or make true on their promises to call the police (even though I didn’t think the police would really do anything except bemoan being called to the scene of petty drama). I kept worrying that we’d run into them at some point during the event. After all that…all I wanted was to return home and go to bed.
That’s when I realized something, and this quote pretty much sums it up: “Be kind to others even when they don’t deserve it, not as a reflection of their character, but as a reflection of yours.”
Most of us would agree that these women’s words and behavior were completely uncalled for. Most of us would agree that there was a more peaceful way that they could’ve gone about reclaiming their parking space. Just like most of us would agree that my friend was in the wrong to begin with for stealing their space.
But in that moment, proving a point just to prove a point ultimately robbed me of my own peace. I humored my pride, but I didn’t even feel good about it afterward.
Even if I didn’t agree with these women’s bullying/scare tactics, in the grand scheme of things, walking away from the situation and letting them have the parking space wouldn’t have meant I was weak, or that I was scared, or that I let someone ‘conquer’ me.
It would’ve just meant that I valued my peace too much to argue over a most insignificant and trivial thing (a parking space!).
How many times in life do we strive to prove our point, defend our royal right-ness, display our strength…for something silly? Our pride gets the better of us so often, but it doesn’t have to be that way. If we would just pause but for a few moments and ask ourselves “do I really want to prove I’m right in this moment, or would I rather keep my peace?” …we might find ourselves being a whole lot happier far more often.
Sure, there are times when righteous anger is required. I’m not saying we need to be doormats/ultra pacifists 24/7…but I think it’s about examining the source of our anger. Is it coming from a societal wrong and injustice…or is it just the pestering voice of our own pride, convincing us to speak up lest we appear weak?
I don’t know about you, but I think that sometimes the strongest thing you can do is walk away from an argument with your peace still intact. ;0)