Can Your Defensiveness Make You a Better Person?
Human beings have a tendency to be oppositional. I’m not sue I fully understand it. Which may be why the title of this article is in the form of a question, “Why disagree? Why, why disagree?”
If those words sound familiar to you it is probably because they come from the great theologian of our time, The Reverend Doctor Meghan Trainor. They are lyrics from the song “Dear Future Husband” on her debut album literally titled “Title.” I jest about her being a reverend or doctor. I know almost nothing about her except by repeatedly listening to a couple albums (Learn more). Even the quote I’m lifting is completely out of the context of the song. It is just that she asks a fabulous question, “Why disagree?”
Sometimes there are excellent reasons to disagree. Being disagreeable is a very important trait that everyone needs to exibit in healthy ways throughout our lives. What we want to look out for, however, is defensiveness.
When we are disagreeing out of defensiveness then we need to take a step back and do some self-examination. Self-reflection is good skill and is best employed on an ongoing basis. So, while you can begin processing your defensiveness alone, it is also critical to engage with a counselor and with mature, trusted friends too.
It’s astonishing to me how frequently Trainor’s lyrics are triggered in my head as I move around my state, church, workplaces and listening to the news and other television content. I hear good things being proposed and people being oppositional, disagreeing. My brain just breaks out into Trainor’s tune, “Why disagree? Why, why disagree?”
Although this occurs across many topics, a most common one I keep observing is in opposition to the existence of white privilege and systemic racism in the present United States. You may already know the term “white solidarity” as one of the many mechanisms upholding racism.
The company line in America is that people of every race are equally free and have equal opportunities, that systemic racism does not exist here. White solidarity refers to the negative consequences that befall any person that deviates from the company line. (By “company line” I mean that it is the story that we’ve been told as children and it is the story we tell the rest of the world about who we are. It is what we want to believe about ourselves.)
Why disagree with the existence of racism if not to uphold the system of racism? We can either work on solving the problem or pretend it is not a problem. When a person or group says they experience racism, why would a person or a group choose to disagree? Why respond defensively? What is at stake by agreeing?
For the record, one can uphold systemic racism regardless of one’s skin color. People of color can experience some of the benefits of white privilege by upholding white supremacist ideas. For example, people of color are frequently lifted up by white people in power and in white organizations as long as they speak and act accordingly to support white supremacy and privilege. Break with white supremacist ideas and you, no matter what your skin color, will experience reprimand and loss of privileges. White solidarity is real and everywhere.
We can apply this defensiveness test to many controversial areas – theological, political, social, educational. Why disagree with minority sexual orientations? Why disagree with people claiming their chosen gender identity and pronouns? Why disagree when women say they deserve to be paid equally to their non-female colleagues? Why disagree with letting students read books they are interested in? Why disagree with educators about what is age appropriate for students?
People are simultaneously very diverse and very similar. We all want to be able to meet our basic needs and want the freedom to be our true self. The ways that people are different are beautiful and can be complimentary and constructive if we don’t respond with fear and vilification.
If you are open and capable of seeing the good, even the God, in everyone then you may be capable of helping build the kind universe – online and in three dimensions – that is possible. If you are ready, I invite you inside Be Kind Humans.