Absolutely Asinine

In working through the fallout of what could fully have been caused by taking well-meaning absolutes to heart, I’ve been reflecting on what I could have done differently and what I wish others had done differently. And this isn’t just a now issue, in looking back, there are many distressing issues that can directly be attributed to my assigning too much weight to the absolutes of others that I respect.

I am not overly trusting in general. I don’t think I’m alone in summarizing a lifetime of being let down, being related to people who cause active harm, detecting and dodging ulterior motives. But when I do trust, I tend to trust big. I can see now that all absolutes from others need to be run through some kind of internal filter, though what this looks like exactly isn’t especially clear to me. Defining and setting up these filters is an unclear process since we don’t know what we don’t know. Even one that likely has to vary per situation and per person.

When someone has a very strong opinion that could have been founded in their experiences or even the experiences of others entirely, the conviction with which they pass this along can be very moving–more of a factual statement than an opinion. This confidence is appealing and comforting if I happen to be stuck on an enormous decision since it feels like a sign from the universe and provides a defined path forward, one that’s already been carved out. This person I know well and respect and hold in high regard is saying with authority to do this, so I’ll do it, and this back and forth will be over.

While these absolutes can come with the best of intentions, they’re also something that was entirely constructed based on very unique circumstances. The context for which these foundational, solid opinions and beliefs were formed is actually what matters most–how they got there, not where they ended up.

These critical context details are generally either not shared at all, or summarized too severely. Or, what I’m learning is more often the case, the relationship between the time and events that led to the absolute and the absolute itself is not entirely understood. And therefore, the relay of absolutes is faulty and untrusting.

From parenting advice, to medical procedures, to career and financial and relationship decisions, there are countless people who will pass on what they view as their hard-earned absolutes that you should use out of the box. But the odds of them being well-suited are slim. Their story is not my story. There can be high-level similarities and themes, but framing these as absolutes is reckless.

The only single thing I personally know absolutely is that absolutes are asinine. Going forward, I’m going to make sure I’m especially mindful of both how I frame advice and experiences and how I choose to receive and act on the absolutes of others. And always share and gather context.

See you tomorrow over breakfast.

February 5, 2024

A tiny project byJoni Trythall inspired by friends at Wiggle Work.