This piece of wisdom came from George Takei’s Facebook. I am not sure who the original author was, so any help in attribution would be appreciated.
This idea is a vital part of my book, Skillful Means. I include many chapters that focus on how we need to accept someone else for who they are, while still striving to aid them to be the best and happiest person we know they can be. We must understand that their character may always, no matter their work on self-improvement, be melancholic or cynical or low-energy or introverted. Those are always fine ways of living.
Pooh is a very phlegmatic and sanguine person, very calm and fun. Tigger is manic and sanguine. Eeyore is quieter and less likely to see in the good in life, but they are patient with him. It is true that it seems they will often tell him to cheer up, but they do so in a loving way.
If our depressed friend is also an introvert, we can actually make them have a real struggle if our only idea to cheer them up is to take them to a club or another area of social interaction. We may need to find something that is lower –key: A quiet hike or drive, a LAN or video game party with a small group of people, going to the movies or having a bad movie night at home.
We must also understand that, even when our friend says “No” to the adventure (as Eeyore often seemed to do), they still appreciate the offer. They may even appreciate when we come over to spend time with them and simply sit quietly, doing our own thing.
Those who are happy or sanguine or upbeat or optimistic don’t need to evangelize their viewpoint or their perspective on life. They can simply share who they are and role model a happier way of living, and that optimism and fun can bleed into their friend. The Eeyores of the world can learn to be happier and more energetic in their own way, never losing their own authenticity and simply stoking their own fires with ours.
But there is something I should note, and it is vital for everyone to understand, both the sanguine and the melancholic personalities in life.
Eeyore himself didn’t try to evangelize his bad mood either. He would say what he felt, but it did not ever seem like he tried to actually make Pooh or Tigger any different either.
I owe someone the respect for their opinion, their perspective and their way of thinking.
They owe me the same.
Just as I have seen people who try to make their sad friend happy and upbeat instantly, and become impatient when their efforts don’t work out immediately, so too have I seen my cynical or angry or sad friends try to evangelize their shitty attitude on me.
If I am feeling bad, for example, they might say, “It’s like I’ve told you, the world sucks”.
How awful is that? I’m in a mode where I might be more susceptible to that, and they are telling me something they know for a fact I do not believe. It takes me longer for me to return back to my mode, but I will, and I will resent them for having tried to pile on.
If they respected my beliefs, they would say, “Look, I don’t believe this, but I know you would tell yourself to buck up and smile and have a good attitude, and that things will get better. So I hope you get back to believing that”. Or even, “Sorry you had a sucky day”.
If I express that I believe that we have a duty and this world matters, they can say, “Well, I disagree but I know you believe that strongly and I like you for believing it”. They might even say, “I wish I could believe that, but I can’t, not yet and maybe not ever”. If they feel like I’m trying to convert them or evangelize them, they can simply say, “I know that you feel that that works for you, and it seems like it very well might, but it doesn’t work for me and I ask you to respect that”.
I believe that a good attitude matters, and that there is no situation that a bad attitude can’t make worse. I believe this world is beautiful. I believe that the horizon and the flowers and watching animals emerge and thinking about the immense scale of the stars and black holes outweighs the pain of disaster and trauma a thousand fold. I believe that everyone has light in them and can be redeemed. I believe everyone deserves a second chance and everyone deserves aid sometimes. I believe that a truly beaming smile is infectious, and that light beats darkness. I believe that we all have moral duties, and I believe that fighting with every ounce of what we are against evil and pain is the greatest redemption we can ever help.
Someone else can believe whatever else they would like, based off their experiences and study. They can live their life by a different code and have different paths. They can choose to be a pessimist if they wish. They can choose to be a cynic, a nihilist, a Satanist.
But they better not evangelize that crappy attitude to me, an attitude that does not work for me and I find toxic, any more than I should try to evangelize anything that is toxic to them.
And I have seen this pattern over and over again. A person who has endured tremendous trauma will imply that my experiences are somehow flawed or incomplete. No, they’re not. A person who is in serious pain will imply that my challenges are not real. No, I go to bed exhausted from what I do, totally drained; my challenges are real too. A person who is depressed will be angry at me and tell me that my attitude is an illusion, and that the world will grind me down. Even if you’re right, shut up and let me come to accept it on my own. But you’re not. I’m just different from you.
I am sure I have sometimes been too pushy, or too intense, or too optimistic, for others. It is something I work on and have patience with, just as the Eeyores of this world ask for patience.
We have to respect each other enough to accept each other’s love as it is offered. We have to believe in our convictions strongly enough to not need to convert someone else to prove it to ourselves, as we are so often wont to do. We have to be patient.
We all have to be more skillful.