Someone telling you they have no filter is usually code for
them being an asshole. I would like to meet someone who doesn’t have a filter
but is super nice. Like they are walking around the grocery store and can’t
keep themselves from complimenting people, saying how nice the apples look, how
the floors look all shiny. That would be cool.
Filters for our words are important.
We all have filters, but we rarely look at what they are or
why they are in place.
Some filters are there because of social desirability and basic
decency. Don’t tell people their new haircut makes them look like Poppins from
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia or that you think their baby is kind of ugly.
Other filters are authority or consequence-based. How you
speak to your boss or police officers and judges needs to be different than how
you speak to your friends. This is especially relevant to the people with the
least amount of social and political capital in our society. Privilege has
become a very overused word, but there is a strong element of privilege in what
filters you can get away with not having in these situations.
Many people function under filters that were imposed on them
as children, often by well-meaning parents, but they are filters that keep them
from expressing or standing up for themselves or from creating heathy
boundaries. They were taught to keep quiet, not rock the boat, and tolerate
whatever people offer them because it’s “the right thing to do”. Some people
were taught to filter out their creativity or humor through condemnation or
criticism, others were given the idea that conflict and confrontation are bad
Do you ever question what keeps you from saying what you
want to say?
Are these reasons valid, or do they keep you from expressing
things that needs to be expressed?
How we say things is important, but there are few things
that change for the better without some degree of conflict or confrontation.
Are you afraid to say these things?
Examine your filters.
See where they come from, why you have them.
Are they serving you?
If someone shoots me in the chest or kicks me in the face or
steals my car, I can point to a place of injury. I would have a hole in my
chest or missing teeth or no way to get to work. A sound can damage my ear
drums and a light can damage my eyes. A fire can burn my house down and a
tornado can destroy my office.
These are all very real things, with real consequences.
On the other hand, I have trouble seeing where an offense
harms us, yet we seem to place a great deal of value on not being offended.
We often think that our being offended requires someone else
to change their opinion or beliefs or actions.
It is hard for us to demonstrate the harm we have endured
from an offense, and I do not know anyone who has actually been damaged by
being offended, but I know plenty of people who have had their day ruined, lost
sleep, gotten anxious and become deeply entrenched in anger because something
someone said or did offended them.They felt harmed by something that only exists
in someone else’s head, and they allowed that to bring them suffering.
Now, things are different when a person’s opinions or
beliefs become actions that bring concrete consequences onto others, and we
have to address that. When someone enforces their opinion on us, we have moved
beyond being offended, to being harmed, whether physically or in our employment
or freedom of movement, whatever. We are no longer talking about offense.
However, in these instances, being offended will do nothing for us. It is wasted
But when we are talking about just being offended, we have
to ask ourselves what has actually happened.
What harm has befallen us?
What has actually changed?
I want to be clear about one thing: I don’t disbelieve in
the notion of taking offense because I think people need to toughen up. My not
buying into my feeling of being offended doesn’t have anything to do with being
bothered by other people being bothered, and it isn’t to complain that outrage
culture has turned us soft or fragile.
It’s not about other people being one way or another.
It’s not about other people at all.
It’s about me.
I am just not willing to give an outside source control over
my emotional state, and I am not willing to believe that someone can harm me by
holding a belief or thinking a thought. I am not willing to be manipulated by
someone else’s ideas, no matter how stupid or wrong I think they are. I am
willing to talk with them or explain why I think their idea or belief is
no good, but they don’t get to ruin my week or my day or even an hour of the
limited time I have to live.
Just how much power are we giving away when we allow someone
to offend us?
Why do we give people such tremendous power over us based on
something that exists inside their head, and nowhere else?
Do you really trust the people who offend you to have
control over your emotional state?
What have they done to earn that right?
What would happen if we took radical ownership of our
internal state of affairs?
These are questions worth exploring, especially in our
current social and political climate, no matter which side of things you tend
to stand on.
A vast majority of people cannot be trusted with the key to
your emotional state.
Don’t let them have it.
We like to say we struggle with things.
We all do it.
We struggle with exercising every day.
We struggle with eating right.
We struggle with going to bed on time.
In these cases, “struggle” is a code word to
let ourselves off the hook for bad choices.
We’ve talked before about how struggle is chosen by refusing
to accept what’s right in front of us. We also call it up when we want to
do something we know we shouldn’t do, but don’t want to straight-up admit we
are doing something we know we shouldn’t do.
We all know we should eat healthy, exercise, get good sleep,
not cheat on the people we are in monogamous relationships with. We know we
shouldn’t drink to excess, use harmful drugs, let our house be filthy or spend
9 hours a day watching television or screwing around online.
These are not actual debates; we introduce debate as a way
of letting ourselves make what we know is a poor choice.
I need to choose between a healthy meal and fast food.
No debate here, we all know fast food is addictive garbage.
But, then the voice in my head kicks in.
Just consider this…
You’ve been at work all day, you’re tired, just swing
through the drive-through.
There shouldn’t be a debate here, I know the right thing to
But, for some reason, it’s there.
A lot of this applies to addictive behaviors as well, the
fake debates are just a little more manipulative and aided by stronger
neurochemical desires. We still introduce debate and act like it’s legitimate.
Choice Matters. Anyone who tries to take this from you is
taking the one power you really do have.
We add fake complications to give us a way to explain our
One of the best things we can do is not pretend there is a
debate when there is not. Sometimes it is as simple as just doing what we know
we should do, when we should do it.
Much of the “struggle” we find ourselves engaged in is
chosen so that we can tell ourselves we tried to do the right thing.
There is no “try” on some things. Some things you just do.
There are all sorts of things you can legitimately try and
fail at. You can try to bench your bodyweight and still fail. You can work
really hard for an A in a tough class and still wind up with a C. You can be a
safe driver and still get in a wreck that is your fault. There is nothing wrong
with failing, it’s good for us and makes us more resilient if we let it.
But, a lot of the time, our failure lies in the choice we
make, not in external circumstances.
Some things are simple choices.
Don’t make them more complicated than they need to be.
No debate required.
So we have Mindfulness Monday, The Sunday Roundup and, now,
I Was Wrong Wednesday.
This new weekly feature will explore all the things I have
been wrong about in my life, despite strong confidence that I was absolutely,
These days, I work from the belief that I am wrong about a
lot of things, but that I just don’t know what they are yet.
I look at the ways I’ve changed over the past two years
alone, and assume that I will be embarrassed about some of the things I believe
At least I hope I will.
I don’t want to get entrenched in my beliefs to the point I
cannot see outside of them.
I think that, for much of my life, I have been combative to
point of being controlled by others’ opinions because I did not consider my own
opinion, I just wanted to be in opposition to everyone else. I always resisted
being controlled, being told what to do, being told there was a path in life.
I resisted anything that indicated I might not have total freedom
and total control in which to make terrible choices and screw everything up.
This is funny, because I find a lot of use and even security
in the notion of fate these days. I like the idea of those Gods in Asgard,
knowing they have this horrific fight coming and that they will die. I like
that instead of struggling against it or whining and complaining about it, they
embrace it. They run headlong into it, meeting their fate with indifference at
The notion of fate infuses almost every earlier culture,
maybe because they were not operating under the illusion of control that our
technology has given us.
The Stoics described us as a dog tied to a cart. We may have
some degree of leeway, but we are going where that cart is going. Every one of
us has these things that happen to us in life that provide advantages and
disadvantages, and we all have a ceiling placed on us in one way or another. We
can do things to expand our capabilities and things to expand our
disadvantages, but there is a limit to what we can accomplish in a lifetime. I
know this isn’t a popular idea anymore, but I also wonder if we do a disservice
to people by telling them they can be and do anything instead of encouraging
them to follow their natural path and play to their strengths.
This isn’t about resignation or not living up to our
potential though, it’s about embracing our path and doing the best we can with
it, giving it our full attention instead of being distracted and pulled astray
by all the “what ifs” and the envy of looking at what other people have.
I was so focused on bucking everything and everyone when I
was younger, and then showing I was smarter and had it all figured out when I
was older, that I missed opportunities to accept things as they were and to
make something out of what was given. Instead of building something solid with
the materials I had, I built unstable and ultimately useless things with what I
thought I wanted.
We can view the things we are given as limitations, or we
can see them as a blueprint for the best path we have. We will all have things
happen to us we don’t like, have to deal with things that aren’t ”fair” and, as
we have discussed before, will die at some point.
We can uselessly struggle against these things, or we can
save our energy for things we can control. There is no value in swimming
upstream for the sake of swimming upstream.
We may be dogs tied to carts, but our decisions determine
the length of the leash.
We are having our own tiny Ragnarok here at the house as I
am running a pretty nasty fever and Max woke up vomiting this morning.
I think I would rather fight a giant snake than deal with
So we have the horror and bloodshed of Ragnarok, and a lot
of the Gods die and the earth is awash in fire and death. We also have a sort
of reversal of the creation myth of the Norse, and everything returns to the
silent void that came before everything else.
It’s a reset.
This isn’t some crappy lack-of-commitment reset though – dead
people and most of the dead Gods stay dead, but things begin again. The earth
is repopulated, a newer and greater God than Odin takes over and things are
cool. Baldur, whose death triggered all of this even gets to come back.
This seems to often be true of life.
Hardships come and hardships go. They can be crippling as we
cling to everything we are losing and refusing to accept change, or they can an
opportunity to start over, to take stock of what matters and move on.
At the very least, they are always an opportunity to be
thankful for the things we do have, and to learn to cultivate an appreciation
for the things that are left. This can be actual possessions, or friends and
family after a disagreement or fight.
There is always something to be thankful for, something to
Death and rebirth are a popular theme in just about all
mythologies, and there is a reason for this. Part of human experience is to
lose things and to have things go awry. We have to choose between letting this
beat us, or building something new.
We will wrap up Ragnarok tomorrow with the beginning of a
new weekly feature, “I Was Wrong Wednesday”, where I examine the things I was
completely wrong about over the years.
That’s if I survive the Pukepacalypse.