One of my more vivid middle school memories never actually happened. You see, I had this habit of imagining conversations and scenarios with the people I knew or saw around me. The beginning of the story is true enough though. I was walking to school one early morning and approached an intersection. A long line of cars, occupied mostly by parents and their kids, were stopped at the red light. Of the people I could see, nobody looked particularly happy. Tired faces looked blankly ahead. I certainly wasn’t the only one that would have preferred to sleep in that morning.
My mind wandered, and I began to imagine the conversation I might have with a boy in my grade, a boy with a reputation, at least in my mind, of being somewhat of a bully. Even in my imagination though, the boy didn’t want to talk with me. I was frustrated that he was being so stubborn. If only we could understand each other, we could be friends, I thought.
Whatever… I hate that word. Whatever. Closing the door. Conversation over. Talk to the hand.
I got angry with him. I totally lost it. With a thought and a hand gesture, palm faced forward, I lifted the kid off the ground and suspended him high in the air. I don’t remember the particulars of the conversation, but I remember that the attempt to communicate ended in failure. I wanted to shake him, to make him listen to reason, and to make him stop his bullying behavior. We could be friends.
Perhaps my imaginary scenario could have been successful if I weren’t playing both sides. I wanted to imagine him agreeing to give up his bullying ways and then enthusiastically asking to be my friend. Instead, I imagined myself as the poor kid being suspended in the air by some mysterious power. I freaked out. Friends? What? As if that could be possible! Maybe I’d say the words this monster wanted me to say, just to get away, but that would be the end of it. I’d be out of there as fast as I could.
Disappointed, I ended the scenario in my mind. Force doesn’t work. No matter what a person would say or agree to do in that situation, it would be false. It wasn’t what I wanted.
I had other conversations with other kids where I tried logic instead of force, and these were similarly ineffective. As humans, we’re emotional beings. Logic can feel too much like manipulation. It can feel cold and calculated. Some behavior or action may make logical sense, but who are you to tell me what to do or how to act?
I realize that as I’m sharing this experience, I’m slipping back and forth between different points of view, but that was the nature of the experience. I played every role and tried to get in everyone’s head. I was every person simultaneously, and I did and said what I thought they would have done or said in that situation.
In recent days, I’ve experienced some real-life closed doors and minds. It can be so frustrating, especially since I know exactly what it feels like to be the one with the closed mind. Words mean nothing. Logic is irrelevant. Just go away already! I can’t do this. It’s too hard. You are that way. I am this way.
I know the feeling, and I can feel it again if I try. But I prefer to just let it go. Optimism is better than pessimism. Hope preferable to despair. Maybe I can do it. Open the door. Just a crack. Some thoughts are more helpful than others. Let them in.
In my mind, I lower the poor frightened kid back onto the ground, and he takes off running. I’m sorry, I say silently. He’s long gone already. I wanted to be friends, but that’s not going to happen. That’s okay. I’ve let it go. I hope someone else can reach his heart though. Both being the bully and being bullied are terrible experiences that no kid should have to go through.
Force doesn’t work to change people. Not really. I gave up trying a very long time ago. Logic can work with some people sometimes, but not particularly well. I wish it worked better because some ideas make a lot of sense, and the world would be a better place. Respect for people often works. If I respect somebody and they say I should change in some way, I’ll think about it. Emotions though… feelings and emotions rule the heart and our paths through life.