When it comes to interacting with people I do not know, I like to avoid as much conflict as I possibly can. In a restaurant, if they get my order wrong, I almost never say anything because I don't want to annoy the waiter or waitress. If, at the grocery store, someone approaches the same line as I do, I always let them go ahead of me because I don't want to make them angry. Whenever I am dealing with customer service employees, whether in person or over the phone, I am always extremely apologetic of using up their time and many times blame the problem on myself, even if it is clear it's not my fault.
I wish I could say that I did all this because I was a "good person" or because I am genuinely concerned about the well being of others. The truth is, I am like this because I am so scared of offending others or doing something that will make them think less of me. So instead of being virtuous, it's really a huge pride issue. It's all about ME.
You might think it's strange that I am afraid to offend people. After all, I write about controversial topics all the time on this blog, and I make my opinion clearly known. Part of the reason I love writing this blog is because I find it's so much easier for me to put my thoughts into writing than it is to speak about it. Another reason, though, is something that my generation suffers from because of the "computer" and "texting" age: I do not have to respond to people who disagree with me right away. I have time to think about my responses. With a blog, I can think about what I'm going to say, say it, and then check it to make sure I said everything the way I meant to. It is so much different from a person to person conversation. In that case, your response must be immediate. You have much less time to think. You have much less time to "calm down" if one person offends another.
Last weekend, Trent, Elizabeth, Cocoa (our dog) and I stayed at a little cabin in Shawnee National Forest. We went to a few really great wineries (and yes, I did drink some wine, despite the judgment stares I was getting from some people). One of the wineries was having a charity event for animal shelters. We brought Cocoa and walked around to the different activities and booths, all of us having a great time.
|Elizabeth was tuckered out after the weekend.|
Don't worry, she didn't get punched in the face. That's a face painting.
At one point, Trent went inside the winery for a few minutes while I stayed outside with Cocoa. Suddenly, a woman with a clipboard approached me and two other girls who were standing next to me. "Hi everyone!" she said cheerfully. "Would you like to sign a petition to help the Green Party get on the ballot for the next election?" I froze. The two girls next to me shrugged and said "sure, why not?" The woman looked expectantly at me. "Uhhhh...." I said awkwardly, "Um, maybe I should wait for my husband to come back. He knows more about this stuff than I do."
First of all, that was a lie. I am just as involved with and informed about political issues as my husband is. I needed to buy myself some time so I could think of what to say to this woman. Ordinary people who were unsure about signing the petition would just politely say "no, thank you" and move on. But not me. I wanted my husband to do the dirty work for me because I was too much of a wuss to say anything.
Let me be clear, here, that I do not associate myself with a political party, per se. I vote based on which candidate will most carry out the issues that are aligned with Catholic Church teachings. I love that the Democratic party focuses on helping the poor. I love that the Republican party is pro-life. I love that the Green party is concerned with saving the environment and making our world a better place to live. Obviously, there is never a candidate who will stand for every single thing the Church teaches. So I make priorities. To me, sanctity of life is the most important issue, because if we do not value human life, then what else matters? Keep in mind that when I say "sanctity of life," I mean ALL life, from conception to natural death. This includes not only unborn babies, but children, teenagers, adults, and the elderly. However, since unborn babies are the most innocent and vulnerable of this group, I have made abortion my number one priority when I vote.
So this is why I felt so awkward when the woman asked me to sign the petition. I didn't even know if the Green party was pro-life or not. Trent returned, and I pointedly looked away from the woman, trying to avoid eye contact. "Excuse me, sir, your wife said I should talk to you." The woman explained what she wanted. "I see you two have a child, which means you must be concerned with making our world's future a better place! Please sign this petition to help make that a reality!" My husband looked at her and immediately said, "I'm sorry, but I don't agree with everything your party stands for, so I can't sign that." The lady wasn't going to give up. "You don't want to make your daughter's future better?" she asked.
I started to get sweaty and nervous. My "avoid conflict at all costs" alarm was going off in my head. My husband seemed unperturbed. To try to smooth things out, I said, "I really like a lot of what the Green Party stands for. But are you pro-life?" She paused, then said, "You mean anti-choice?" That statement right there answered my question. But she went on: "No, I firmly believe that all women should have the freedom to control their own bodies. Think about how many unwanted children there are out there. I have three daughters myself, and they have gotten bullied by other children who have terrible lives, simply because their parents don't want them. Do you really want your daughter to be around these types of children?"
So in situations like these, what should a person do? Should we use the opportunity to evangelize, and to explain our faith? Or will that backfire? I have seen "Christian Evangelists." Many times, they do more harm than good. They talk too much, and end up frustrating people more than they help people. It is more effective, in my opinion, to evangelize by example: by living your faith in the best way you can. But what about strangers who we will never see again? Should we remain silent and simply pray as hard as we can? Part of what held me back from responding to this woman was certainly cowardice. But part of it, too, was my feeling that talking to her would do no good.
How do you respond in situations like this? What do you think is the best way to convey the truth without being pushy or annoying? Where, in your opinion, is the balance between "saying" and "praying"?