Several years ago I relinquished one of my email accounts to the realm of spam, newsletters, and sweepstakes. I pretty much only use that email address to “Sign Up” for things. I check that email often though just to make sure I don’t miss something that I want, but that account gets A LOT of spam. I have noticed a trend over the past few years that is really starting to annoy me. There seem to be a number of emails that declare I am doing something the wrong way. I am drinking wine, eating sushi, cooking my steaks, wearing my underwear or any number of things…the wrong way. Someone somewhere has proclaimed that there is a proper way to do something that is different than many or most of us (or maybe just a few of us) are doing it. I hate these emails for a number of reasons.
Such emails either make me feel self-conscious about the way I eat, wear, drink, etc. and/or they make pretentious others even worse as they get to sit with me at dinner and look down their nose at me and proclaim how they saw an article online the other day saying the “proper way to…” is this. Why do I need another thing in this world to help me feel self-conscious? We already have commercials that make me second guess the car I drive, the medications I take, or the clothes I wear. I really do not need another person telling what I should and should not do with my sushi? We are governed too much by trying to get things right. We are ruled too much by fear and guilt. Such articles just reinforce our performance-driven society.
These types of emails and the mentality behind them also assume that there ought to be some kind of uniformity in how everything is done and that there is some kind of standard of taste that controls what is good and what is not. Certainly, I am not suggesting a free-for-all in everything. Of course, we want to be mindful of the feelings of others. Certainly, we don’t want to do things that are dangerous to life and limb for us or our neighbor. However, to suggest that there is only one way to eat a steak or one way to enjoy fruit, is to deny the variety of human taste and experience. There is a cultural expectation that all people will conform to a particular norm. However, that norm is set by a dominant culture that is not always mindful of others' norms and it does it often express interest in learning. So, the pressure to conformity kills the individual spirit and nurtures the “isms” of our world (sexism, racism, ageism, etc.) Conformity may make us feel safe in that it does not raise a question about whether what we are doing is right or not, but if there is freedom, why does it matter?
What makes life so interesting is that there is a variety of tastes, beliefs, traditions, stories, and idiosyncrasies. If we approach life with more curiosity than rules, we have such better conversations and deeper relationships. To share with another about your interests or traditions while listening and exploring theirs is so much more enjoyable than judging another’s actions as wrong or bad. Again, I make the exception for issues of criminality or abuse, but in so many things in the world there is a rich diversity that we miss if we claim a false sense of superiority and go judging others' likes and dislikes.
I don’t like black coffee. I am more a frou-frou coffee drinker. I am sure there is some coffee connoisseur somewhere who would consider a latte or mocha an abomination. Am I drinking my coffee “wrong”? No. No, I am not. I am drinking it the way I like it. If you are drinking your coffee black, are you drinking it wrong? No. You are drinking it the way you like it. A friend of mine once shared that he was criticized by a neighbor not cutting his grass exactly 4 inches. The lawnmower people might even suggest that is a good height for grass, but then why does the lawn more adjust lower than that? Cut your grass as high or as low as you like your grass. Don’t let someone else tell you can’t eat your steak or drink your wine the way you want. Don’t allow yourself to feel guilty because someone else doesn’t like the way you ice a cake. Let grace abound. Let love rule. Let relationships be ruled by curiosity and acceptance. We could all use a bit richer conversation and lot judgement in our lives.