Learning to Keep Your Mouth Shut

One of the hardest things for a man to do is to sit back and let things happen, especially when they are things that he disagrees with. I have mentioned in the past that we can learn to live with humiliating situations, but what about those times when things are happening that strike at the core of your life and are being caused by people you used to trust? What do you do when you feel the anger welling up inside you and all you want to do is scream at someone?

I’ve learned over the years that many times speaking out just makes things worse, not only for you, but for the people you care about. I’ve said a lot on this blog about standing up to what is wrong and finding the courage to do what needs to be done, and in many situations this is absolutely the right thing to do. Unfortunately, there are also situations where sometimes you just have to sit down and shut up and let things happen, even if you hate every minute of it.

Among the myriad situations to which this applies is child custody. I haven’t gotten too personal about this particular area of my life, mostly because I prefer to keep my children out of anything public like this. The sad thing is that they are no longer close by, and everyone hates it except for the person who decided it in the first place. It was a decision made by one person that affects nearly everyone who matters, but none of us got a say in any of it.

What can you do in a situation like this? I could have fought the decision, but would that really have helped? There is a tenuous congeniality involved in this particular situation, a delicate balance which can be upset with a single wrong word. A step in the wrong direction could bring misery down not only on myself, but also on my kids. Even though my principles tell me to fight for what I think is best for them, the reality is that all I can really do is make things worse.

The movies give us situations like this all the time. A man might be walking down the street with his wife and they are accosted by a man with a knife wanting her purse. Our natural instinct is to defend the one we love, but in reality the odds are that resisting someone with more power than us is only going to result in someone getting hurt. Is it worth it to protect a few dollars or trinkets?

Where we get a difference is in the same situation when the man wants to rape his wife. Then it crosses a threshold where there is no longer any choice but to fight as hard as he can to stop a person with evil intent from causing irreparable harm to the person he loves most. This is a clear line that most of us naturally understand. There is very little ambiguity when it comes to a black and white situation like this.

The problem is that many of our problems don’t have black and white solutions. When things come up that cause us pain, the first thought that enters our mind is usually the nuclear option. Just blow everything up and let the chips fall where they may. This is almost never the correct response, and as we get older it becomes much easier to understand why. We start out making decisions impulsively with little wisdom. Experience teaches us the folly of acting that way.

In the end, sometimes we have to learn to just shut our mouths and accept what we can’t change. Only you can decide where this applies in your life. I can write on this blog and encourage you to stand up for your rights and fight the system, or do any number of other things, but at the same time we all have to realize that there are certain costs that we aren’t willing to pay. And sometimes we have to be aware of the costs we don’t even know about yet. Is it worth blowing everything up to get our way?

What do you think about using discretion? Have you learned to filter out what is important and what you need to just let slip by? How do you handle it when you have to just accept what is? Part of growing up is learning to differentiate between what you should fight against and what you should learn to live with. There are things that are non-negotiable, but sometimes it’s more important to sacrifice your pride for the benefit of others.

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