a.k.a. “Right vs Kind”
Read Part One of this Series: On Willful Ignorance (Part 1 of 3) a.k.a. “The Grandparent Handout”
Read Part Two of this Series: On Willful Ignorance (Part 2 of 3) a.k.a. “Untaught vs Unlearned”
For the past couple weeks, I have been talking about willful ignorance. In part one, I described a set of behaviours that I call “willful ignorance;” namely, willful ignorance is when someone refuses to listen or to learn about anything new because they think they already know it all, or already know the “right” and “proper” way. In part two, I talked about the difference between regular ignorance (simply not knowing something, being untaught/unexposed to things) and willful ignorance, which again, is refusing to accept new information even when there is an opportunity to learn.
This week I wanted to talk a little more about why willful ignorance gets under my skin so much: willfully ignorant people tend to value being right over being kind.
As I mentioned in part two, I come across willful ignorance often in two big areas of my life: mental illness, and special needs.
I have been diagnosed with Depression and Anxiety. My oldest son has been diagnosed with Autism and a sensory-based feeding disorder. Cue the hoards of people who want to “cure” us, and worse, don’t believe that our health conditions are even real.
I have been told that I am poisoning myself by taking my prescribed medications. I’ve been told to just flush them down the toilet. I’ve been told that my Anxiety disorder is proof that I am not a Christian. I have been told that I wouldn’t struggle with either condition if I were praying the right way.
I’ve been told that my son is just part of an epidemic of over-diagnosis, and that Autism doesn’t actually exist. I have been told that better parenting would cure him. I have been urged to spank him more so he would learn “respect” (all because he did not respond when they called his name). I get the stink eye over what he eats even though our feeding therapist and dietician have both told me that he is doing very well.
The willfully ignorant individuals I know personally all value being right above all else. Unfortunately, they struggle to see that there could be more than one “right” way to respond depending on the situation. Just because spanking the disrespect out of their children worked for them, does not mean that physical violence can cure my son’s genetic neurodevelopmental disability!
The willfully ignorant see “different” as a threat. In every example above, and the many more I didn’t mention, someone had an idea in their head that I didn’t line up with. Obviously they can’t be the one that is wrong, so it must be me. Many times I have been made to feel like I am disturbing the peace, or am a threat to natural law and order just because I experience something that they don’t. It’s crazy that I have that much power to rock someone’s world just by living my life!
How do we fix this problem of people seeing different as threatening?
I really really wish I knew.
It can’t be due to a shortage of information and “awareness,” because Lord knows we have enough “awareness” already. (Too much, I think. People sometimes think they know it all, when they just know a surface amount from a social media campaign.)
No, we have enough information. What we don’t have is the ability to change someone’s perceptions, biases, beliefs and prejudices if they are unwilling to change.
So how do we make someone willing to change?
That’s their business.
After years and years of meeting people who act this way, I have come to realize that all I can do is keep living my life and keep telling my story, and let people accept me or reject me as they please.
Sometimes my circle has been really small.
But at least the people in it have been kind.
Imagine for a minute that “Right” and “Kind” are people. What would they look like?
Right doesn’t know, and doesn’t want to hear it. Right loves predictability and uniformity above all. Right likes having all the answers. Right will shame people and break them down until they fit into the box of knowledge and know-how they already have.
Kind knows that it has much to learn about, and much to benefit from other people’s experiences. Kind values people over rules, systems, and traditions. Kind is willing to grow and adapt to others. When Kind encounters someone that doesn’t fit, they make a little room.
As an exercise, I put my own name in place of “Right” and in place of “Kind,” to see which sentences rang true when I read them.
“Ashley likes having all the answers,” or “Ashley knows she has much to benefit from other people’s experiences“? “Ashley loves predictability,” or “Ashley values people“?
I can’t change anyone but myself, so I make a point of practicing kindness.
If my mental illness and special needs parenting journey has taught me anything, it’s that kindness is the most important quality a person can have. If I accomplish nothing else in my lifetime, I hope that I was at least kind.
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