By Dave Andrusko
In this Wednesday edition of National Right to Life News Today I’d like to revisit something that I’d written about a long time ago but which I happened to stumble across this morning. It was in response to a correspondence that had been sent to National Right to Life. It was posed ostensibly as a question–as in “what do you have to say to this devastating critique of every goofy, hair-brain pro-life argument made since the beginning of time?”
I remember thinking the obvious: that the writer was not looking for a genuine give-and-take, but rather was venting his hostility and preening over his own wit and wisdom.
I’m sure you’ve met your fair share of people in real life who just can’t wait to tear your argument (but hopefully, not you) apart.
In my own experience, a fair amount of the time I try not to respond at all, such as when it’s clear there is nothing I could possibly say (or even not say) that would not make them even madder than they already are.
But there are also times when it appears that the individual is not just using the occasion to let loose a volcanic eruption of irritation and anger. I just politely listen, every so often offering a response–usually when it’s clear they are very much expecting one. Occasionally, at some level, they may actually (sort of) want my opinion.
Doesn’t mean it’ll necessarily move them in my direction, but at least they’ll know I am listening respectfully. And I’ve learned over the years that is more important than you might think. Here’s an example.
This individual was part of a class I lead. Of the 15 to 20 people who attend, she was one of my favorites. Funny, witty, and very sharp.
One day she wasn’t there. Then another time. As I always do when people miss a session or two, I dropped her a quick email. She emailed me back that she’d just found out “what I do.”
If emails could shake with fury, this one would have knocked my PC off the desk. She was seething. Couldn’t/wouldn’t come back, end of story.
But it wasn’t the end of the story. We had talked about her mother whose Alzheimer’s was growing steadily worse. As much as she did not want to, she had concluded it would soon be time to find an assisted living facility with multiple care levels so that they could help her Mom as the Alzheimer’s grew worse.
As I thought what to do in response to the blistering email, I remembered what I had promised her–and had completely forgotten: to direct her to Alzheimer’s support group. Over the next five weeks I did just that. I suggested to the man who is in charge that he contact the former member of my class (without mentioning me) to let her know that hope was not just on its way, it had arrived.
It was my way of not taking offense and trying to do what was best for her and her Mom and her family, regardless of how angry she was with me.
I never learned the background to her rage at me. There may be an abortion–or abortions–in her family, or she may just believe no one can “tell” a woman “what to do” in this situation.
Or any of a dozen other reasons, including one, ironically, which may have posed a real threat to her view of the world: she’d learned I was not the monster she “knew” a pro-lifer had to be.
Our paths never crossed again. Even after all this time, I would very much like to know about her Mom.
And I would like her to know that I still care about her.