…is to not argue.
allow me to share what might be the greatest fortune cookie message of all time:
growing up means arguing more with yourself than with others.
potent, no? that statement is probably the only tattoo i'd ever consider. (not getting one, Mom)
let’s call this arguing-with-others nonsense Phase 0. it’s where we uphold our importance and can’t handle the world as it is, insisting on covering it in leather instead of putting on shoes. the refrain of Phase 0 is, yap, yap, yap. i love my robust voice. You should, too. Also, you’re wrong. My way is the only right way. My ego said so.
what it tells me when i hear, “no, it’s not,” or “you’re wrong,” from someone older than age 10 is, “above all else, i care about being right. obstructionism is better than finding a compromise. game on!” it makes me wonder if they're paid for disputes won, like prizefighters. personally, there isn’t enough money in the world to sell me on the benefits of arguing. the energy spent proving your correctness to everyone who crosses you in the world is immense, exhausting, and endless.
most people live their entire lives here in Phase 0. but this attitude builds a wall between people. i guess walls are useful. you can paint and decorate them. but they also disconnect us. eventually, others get tired of climbing up and snaking around the “Do Not Disturb” signs you posted on the top, not to mention delicately negotiating the barbed wire and nails you lined it with. interacting with you becomes too much work.
with any luck, the wisdom and brutality of this basic truth—arguing with others is insane—embarrassed you enough that you’re inspired you to leave it behind. once you do, you'll detox from expectations for life and the world. this is Phase 1, where you transition to arguing more with yourself, as the fortune cookie predicts.
what does that entail? it’s making your own decisions and accepting the consequences instead of blaming others. by holding yourself to a higher, more responsible standard, you’re captain of the ship. be careful, though, because this phase can get out of hand. you might feel self-doubt and beat yourself up over mistakes. it’s best to just pass through Phase 1, because the next one is where you really want to be.
pushing further, we can decide growing up means not arguing. not with others. not with ourselves. not at all. this is Phase 2, the highest level. but it’s a fairly aggressive message from a measly fortune cookie, almost like a scrap of paper is telling you to shut up.
still, during this phase, you grow more comfortable with reality, dealing with and seeing things as they are. eventually, you don’t blame yourself. you reach a blissful state of acceptance with the world, “ok, now this is happening…”
if you’re ready to stop arguing both with others and yourself, keep reading…
Phase 2 doesn’t mean potential arguments don’t arise. it means you decide to address them differently. it’s like seeing The Argument in the Making charging toward you, like cavalry on a battlefield, brandishing swords, horses frothing at the mouth from exertion. instead of bracing yourself, you politely trot your pony to the tree line at the edge of the field. a simple thanks but no thanks gesture that lets the army rush past, their momentum too great, their speed too high for them to stop.
the most resistant will insist, “not me, Julia. i’ll decide on a case-by-case basis which arguments are worthwhile.” ok, but let’s be honest. it’s more likely the fighting will remain a habit, and you’ll partake automatically. willpower is a muscle that gets depleted, so the fewer decisions you force it to make, the more likely you are to stick to your goals.
as my dad used to say, “you’re either part of the problem or part of the solution.” he was a federal mediator, so it was professionally relevant. and while i’m not wild about all-or-nothing statements, this one’s true. because insistence makes you destructive instead of constructive. growing up means volunteering for the side of solution. you know those “I’m with stupid” t-shirts? t-shirts for this would read, “I’m with solution.” buy them in bulk so you’ll always have a clean one.
as you become your own best friend, you’ll become more compassionate toward yourself. and why would you fight with your best friend?
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