As I have struggled with intense emotions and dealt with heart-crushing grief, I have felt pressure from others to cooperate with the way they want me to feel. In many different circumstances, one person or another essentially urged me to “cheer up” or “get over it.” As if it were that simple. Thankfully, when these comments were at their height, I was already in therapy. I had already learned the validity of my own emotions and knew I was working with effort and purpose to overcome my own obstacles. Otherwise, if I had listened to those people with their simplistic commands, I would have felt badly like I was doing something wrong. Likely, I would have pushed serious issues aside (or inside) instead of continuing to face reality.
When others tell us to just “cheer up,” they may believe they have our best interests at heart. They don’t like to see us sad or hurting. Somewhere in there, it shows they care for us. But their care is twisted in that they want us to feel better because it will make them feel better. And, frankly, our struggle is an interruption to their lives. Would we just cooperate?
Sure, there are times that we need to snap out of a mood or move on from a past disappointment. Plus, no matter what we are going through, we don’t “get” to use that as an excuse to treat other people poorly, and need to ask forgiveness when we do. We can rarely diagnose for others whether it’s a time to “snap out of it” or a time of deeper struggle that cannot be pushed aside. And it’s not our place to.
Another way I’ve felt this pressure to “just cooperate, already!” involves weddings. There’s the pressure to “bless” a marriage you believe unwise or unhealthy. There’s the pressure to be unreservedly excited even though it’s a serious choice with significant consequences. There’s the pressure to act drawn to all of the trappings that have little to do with the actual commitment being made (Realizing You Don’t Have To). Our culture teaches us that people’s weddings are the one time they “deserve” to have everything exactly how they want it, at whatever cost (literal or figurative)…. and it’s not right.
Of course, we need to be gracious when others pseudo-innocently buy into these paradigms and want to pull us along with them. But we don’t have to go against our own convictions just to make others feel better about their own decisions and practices.
Isn’t it convenient I’m only describing ways I’ve felt this pressure? Ways others have tried to make themselves feel better? While this is a topic I’ve been meaning to write about for several months, let me tell you why it came up recently.
This post came to mind because I realized I was in a place that I wanted other people to cooperate with me. I was struggling with certain choices I was making, and I asked others’ thoughts and advice. Advice isn’t truly what I wanted, however. Even though I listened and took note of what they said, I found myself growing frustrated and impatient. “Stop making me think this through. Forget the nuance, the process, the holding back so I make my own decisions. Just get to the part where you make me feel better.”
If those people had cooperated with my desire for manufactured clarity, I may have felt better. They may even have felt better, knowing they had given me a comfortingly straightforward response. But it wouldn’t have been best for me. When someone is pressuring us to cooperate by speeding past reality to their desired result, it can feel unloving to not give in and do what they want. However, sometimes not cooperating is the most loving way we can respond.