Have you ever noticed how your friends are made uncomfortable when you decide you need to give something up? It doesn’t seem to matter whether you’re dieting, or have discovered an allergy or sensitivity, or have read something that makes you feel that you’d probably be better not exposing yourself to it. If you give it up (except for Lent, people do seem to accept that, maybe because it’s temporary, maybe because they don’t expect Lent to be logical), everyone seems to want to get you to go back on your decision. I’ve spent years trying to figure out why, and came up with this imaginary dialogue:
Have some poison, dear.
-Ah, no thank you, it’s poison.
But it’s delicious.
-But it’s poison.
You like it, I know you like it. You used to have it all time.
-Yes, but I found out it was poison, so I don’t any more.
Well, just have a little.
-No thanks, it’s poison.
But you’ve already had so much, what difference can a little more make?
-No thank you. I’ve had enough.
Everyone else is having some.
-But I’m not going to.
But it’s already paid for- this will be the last time, just until it’s used up.
-It’s still poison.
People have been eating it for years and not being hurt.
-Things have changed, the situation is not quite the same as it was. Levels are dangerous now.
It’ll go bad, it’s wasteful not to use it.
-But if I used it, it will be bad for me, so I’m not going to.
Sometimes you have some and don’t realize it.
-All the more reason to avoid it when I can know.
I can’t tell that it’s hurting anyone.
-It’s subtle, but I’m not going to have any.
If you don’t have any you’re insulting me, my judgement, the judgement of everyone else who has some.
-I allow you to make your decisions, I made mine.
I disagree with your sources.
-Yes, and I disagree with yours. I’ll go with my best information, you go with yours.
But I worked so hard on it, don’t you appreciate me/love me?
-I love you, but I’m not having any.
You have to have some or I’ll get in trouble.
-I’m sorry you’ll get in trouble, but it’s my choice, and I’m not going to.
Experts say it’s better for you. Your not going along could cause a panic or economic disruption. You should defer to the advice of experts.
-I am not convinced that they are unbiased. They may be dealing with pressures- as you seem to be. I’m not having any poison.
There’s something wrong with you psychologically if you don’t go along with experts and the majority.
-I don’t agree with that either (and I’m not having any).
God wants you to have some.
-I disagree with that interpretation of God’s will.
I’ve tried to think of all the strange permutations of how people try to get other people to go along with them- whether they are trying to share an alcoholic drink, a piece of cake, or a medication, or common activity. I tried to make them approximately in the ascending order people use when they are trying to convince someone of something. (Although I’m not sure whether “Gods will” trumps “You don’t love me” or vice versa, it probably depends on the people involved.)
But it’s pretty clear whenever we try to give something up, people certainly do get insecure when someone we like disagrees with us! My best guess is that If they disagree, we could be wrong, and that’s scary. That’s why a diet, or Lenten abstinence is less threatening, you aren’t saying it’s bad, only that you’re temporarily and arbitrarily abstaining. It’s when you suggest that it is harmful that insecurities start oozing out like when Howl got depressed. So many reasons to not do what we think best, and only one reason to do it. Because we trust ourselves.
(I actually wrote this about 4 years ago. But it seems a sharable thought.)