It’s okay to be milquetoast if you want to be
When my daughter was little, she was at a preschool and another girl attacked her, knocking her down, roaring like a lion, saying she was going to eat her up. My daughter’s dress was ripped. When I picked her up, the teachers said, “Don’t worry, we talked to the other girl about why she was feeling aggressive.”
“Yes,” I said, “but did any of you talk to my little girl?”
They hadn’t. Not really.
And my daughter never returned to that preschool.
That other girl? She’s all grown up now and still not a nice human being.
It’s lovely to reach out with empathy toward people who hurt others. But it’s equally, if not more important, to reach out to the people who are right there, in that moment, feeling hurt.
That’s something I believe. It’s okay if you don’t believe it, too.
And that’s always been part of what I believe. I believe that we take care of the person who has been hurt first so that they know they didn’t deserve it and so that they know that they deserve care. And then we also take care of the person who did the hurting.
This has a point, I promise.
I went to cover a protest in Northeast Harbor this weekend. The protestors were chill. The three guys working security were chill. Protestors greeted each other with hugs. They called out to my very tall, very white, very walks-like-a-cop husband who was taking pictures, asking who he was. He was taking photos. So was I. But nobody asked me who I was, which was kind of interesting.
Anyway, Northeast Harbor is a place where some incredibly wealthy people live or have lived. It’s a town on MDI near my town of Bar Harbor.
The powerful and the privileged are very much alive in Northeast Harbor. But the thing is that the powerful and the privileged are still just humans. Some of them do things that get protested like Leonard Leo. Some of them don’t.
But what I noticed was how much the protestors believed in what they were doing. They were adamant in what their hearts and brains felt was right. There’s a woman in our town, Annlinn Kruger, she’s the same way. She 100 percent believes that consistently chalking GOOGLE LEONARD LEO will inform more people about Leonard Leo. And she’s truly consistent. And she’s persistent. And even if you don’t agree with her or the protestors who have been going to Leo’s house since 2019 or so, you have to think, “Wow. That’s commitment.”
They remind me of the Stoics like Cato and Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius; some were born wealthy and some not so much. Some are men. Some are women. Some are agender. But they are all there. Committed.
The Daily Stoic had an email out today where it wrote,
“Yet advantaged or disadvantaged, all the Stoics possessed a certain power, a certain freedom by way of their philosophy. The Stoics, rich and poor alike, were equally independent and defiant. They were in command of themselves, they knew what was good and what wasn’t, they knew what was true and what wasn’t and no one–through force or temptation–could make them think otherwise.
“’If you can read in at least one language, then you have this–the tool to educate yourself,’ the great LeVar Burton said before receiving a lifetime achievement Emmy Award last year. ‘No one can hold sway over your mind, your imagination, your dreams if you can read.’ Or as Epictetus said a couple centuries earlier, ‘the educated are free.’”
“A strong mind, a mind that knows how to learn, that knows how to get to the core of things? This mind is stronger than tyrants, than slave owners, than serpent-tongued manipulators. They might be able to throw you in jail or bombard you with disinformation, but they can’t actually get to what matters within you.”
What you believe in is connected to how well you believe in yourself. Knowledge about the world is power, right? But also knowledge of your self is power, too.
What are the maxims and rules that help you get through the day? Do you think about them when you make decisions? Are they engrained in you?
Back in 2013, Paul Hudson wrote for Elite Daily,
“It is not possible to know yourself if you do not know what you believe in. If you do not believe in anything then why are you living? What purpose do you have? Why bother getting up in the morning? If you don’t have maxims that you hold true, that you believe are either the way the world works or the way the world ought to work, then whatever actions you take have no purpose, no direction.
“You’re living a life carved with circular paths — a life that that has no end in sight, only random actions leading in all directions. Our beliefs make us who we are. If you are looking for yourself or looking to recreate yourself, start with your beliefs.”
When I was in college, one of my philosophy professors had us write our own personal credos. I may have been the only person who did the assignment, but I have a clear memory of sitting on the grass outside my four-story brick dorm and writing out all the things I really believed in my little composition notebook. I was too poor for a computer.
I was super into it.
So, how do you do that? How do you make your own credo?
The Argonaut School has a podcast and post about it. It suggests three starting questions.
“What kind of person do you want to be? How do you hope others will see you?
What do you want to stand for?”
Another way to go after your own is here. But I think it’s okay to just freewheel it. Write what matters to you. Write who you want to be.
It can help. A couple of weeks ago, someone in our town (most likely one of the protesters and/or her son) wrote a satirical newspaper where they said my hyper-local news blog was milquetoast. I know! Fancy word, right? And I wasn’t offended. I laughed. Why? Well, it was somewhat clever, I guess. I mean, it was a big, fancy word.
But mostly I didn’t care because all my life people have called me timid because I am so focused on being fair and understanding all the facts and ideas from multiple perspectives.
All my life, people have said that I was meek because I try so hard to be as unbiased and kind as I can be (sometimes I fail). That’s just who I want to be. Maybe at some magical day in the future it won’t be who I want to be, but it is who I want to be right now.
And it’s also why I’m not 100 percent onboard with the Argonaut School’s way of approaching your credo. I don’t think what matters is how other people see me. I think what matters is how I see me.
Maybe the questions should be:
How do you see yourself? Are you the person you want to be? What do you stand for? What do you not stand for?
The things we do to other people, the ways we react, can shape us and them. When those teachers took care of the violent girl instead of my daughter, my daughter learned that you can’t depend on authority figures—even the super kind ones—to take care of you when you’re hurt. She ended up being a leader, a captain in the military, an artist, a writer, a friend, an adventurer, a thinker, someone who helps people, but also someone who knows she herself has a whole lot of worth.
I had to work super hard to make sure that she always knew that she was valued and deserved to be cared for. She did that work, too. Now, that’s something is ingrained in her. But it could have gone a really different way.
It’s something to think about at least, right? I hope you have fun thinking about it!
So, I blog over on LIVING HAPPY and WRITE BETTER NOW every Saturday, Monday and Tuesday. I don’t always share those posts over here, so if you’re into it, you can come subscribe over there and hang out. No pressure though!