I just wrote this in reply to a private message criticizing something I said in the Pagan Spirit Gathering group at Yahoo Groups. Perhaps it needs to be said here, too...
"Why I Argue Hard"
Sometimes I come off a little strong and/or opinionated, here and in other groups. I know that. Although I may argue my position tooth and nail, it doesn't mean that I think I'm always right, because I know I'm not. It doesn't mean that I don't respect other people's positions, because I do.
Someone criticized me privately today, and I take what they said seriously. If I ever say anything that someone takes personally, please understand that I would never intentionally hurt someone's feelings or attack them as a person, however strongly I may argue for my point of view. If I do so, it is unintentional and, well, I'm just human, too. But there's reasons I now go to the wall for what I think is right - even knowing that no one has the complete truth or is ever 100% right on any subject.
I have learned to speak strongly for a reason. I've been in recovery from alcohol and cocaine abuse for many years, and have moved from sponsorship to being a 'trusted servant,' then to lay counseling, advocacy, and ministry at my UU church for the recovery and disability communities, and now I do advocacy work for a living as my personal way of trying to live my beliefs, however imperfectly. For years I used to be afraid to offend people. I tried so hard not to upset anyone. I made excuses for people and told them what I thought they wanted to hear. And they kept going out and getting drunk, and often not coming back to AA. But damn, everybody thought I was such a nice guy.
One day someone I had known for years called me drunk on their ass and high on crack, despite having over seven years of sobriety and being a respected group leader in my home AA group. I wasn't their sponsor, let alone a counselor, just a friend. He cried, and blamed it on his problems and pressures at work, his marriage, and other things. He told me he felt so guilty over losing all those years of sobriety. And so on and so forth.
I told him I understood, let him cry, and told him I might drink under those circumstances too. I told him to just go ahead and get it out of his system - when he was ready to get sober again, we'd still be there. And to go ahead and call me anytime, drunk or sober, whenever he wanted to talk. I suggested he go to an AA meeting when he got sober, but I didn't push it. You see, I didn't want to offend a friend. The last thing I said to him was, "I love you, man. Call me if you need me."
Two days later, he went driving in a blackout. He ran off the road, hit a woman, and kept on going. He woke up the next day to find blood and blonde hair on the smashed front end of his car, not knowing how it got there. Then he heard on the news about a hit and run accident the night before in his area, and he turned himself in. It was big news here, and was played up in the local press because of the scandalous circumstances - 'recovering' alcoholic while driving in a drunken blackout kills a poor innocent single mother of two young children out jogging; then blithely drives on, not even noticing her crumpled, bloody body there on the side of the road - killed like a dog. You get the idea.
Now that a couple of years have passed, I no longer think of my friend and his actions every single day. But I know in my heart whenever I do think about it that if I had been a hard ass, chewed him out, and had gone over to his house and done my best to drag him to a meeting...he probably wouldn't be serving life in prison for vehicular homicide. The woman would probably still be alive. Her two children would probably still have a mother. It's not my fault that woman died, and I do not blame myself anymore, but my days of letting things I think are wrong slide by with an easy word so as not to offend anyone are over.
And now, not usually at the time but months or years afterwards, I have people thank me for helping them change their lives for the better because I don't bullshit them or let them bullshit me. I do try to say, "I may be wrong, but..." as a start to criticism, and perhaps I need to do so more often here. I know I am not always right. I can and do make mistakes working with sponsees and in other areas of my life all the time, but I now prefer to err from speaking the truth as I see it, however mistakenly - and being prepared to make amends when necessary - rather than going along and being a nice guy. You see, someone probably died and two children's lives will never be the same because I just wanted to be a nice guy. Try walking around with that one on your conscience, asking yourself, "What if..." over and over, and see how it affects you.
If sometimes I'm a bit too much of a hard-ass, now you understand why. I'm still trying to find the balance. So if I offend anyone for any reason, please let me know so I can make whatever amends are necessary. If you think I'm wrong in something I say, point it out to me in as logical and positive a way as you can, and I will try to do the same. And if someone offends me by what or how they say something, I will try to cut them the same slack.
Because I really want people to point out to me when they think I'm wrong - even if I don't like it much at the time. Because, amazingly enough, sometimes by God/dess they ARE right and I am wrong, or being an ass, or whatever. And I'd rather be corrected and every once in a while manage to have the courage and honesty to try to change for the better in some small way than just go on being wrong. No matter how many times I need to be hit upside the head with a 2x4 before I finally get it.