By Helena Rodriguez: Local Columnist
A former editor of mine invited myself and other minority reporters to her home for lunch and asked for feedback. One reporter remarked, “How do I say something without coming across as an angry black woman?”
The response this editor from Texas gave has stayed with me: “It’s like your mother told you when you were little — choose your battles carefully!”
Choose your battles carefully. That’s something I’ve been trying to instill in my 15-year-old daughter Laura lately, and yet it’s been nagging me at the back of my head because of some recent incidents in which I really want to give people a piece of my mind but opted to follow the advice of this editor and the advice of Kenny Rogers: You’ve got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away and know when to run…”
I’ve done a lot of complaining in my life, sometimes good, as in I put that person in their place; and sometimes bad, as in putting my foot in my mouth. It’s a gamble knowing when to exercise self restraint and bite your tongue, and knowing when to drop all your cares and spill your beans.
My parents helped fight injustices in the 1960s and 1970s and taught my sisters and I to stand up for ourselves, but as I’ve gotten older, and hopefully wiser, I’ve also learned that you really do have to cho0se your battles carefully. Otherwise you come across as the little boy who cried wolf.
Save your energy for the bigger fights. If you complain about every little thing, people become oblivious and tune out.
On the other hand, experts say it’s not good to hold things in. Don’t get ulcers; get it out of your system man!
But I’ve found that sometimes it’s the “getting it out” part that gives me ulcers. Even though you feel you’re dead right about something, the truth still hurts and sometimes people don’t want to hear the truth. You may have good intentions, but if others don’t get what you’re trying to say or if they take it out of context, it’s like talking to a drunk. So lately, I’ve been holding my fire, but again, I’m not always sure if that’s the right thing either.
I’m teaching Laura to speak out for things, but she has been a little disappointed in me lately for opting not to complain about a couple of things in my life. I’ve been trying to explain this to her the best I can. Just because a business has a complaint box in full view doesn’t necessarily mean it welcomes complaints.
What I’m trying to teach Laura here is that life isn’t always fair. Sometimes you just have to deal with it, and move on so you can focus on the bigger battles.
The Catch 22 here is the old saying, “… They came for the Jews and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a jew…” which ends with “Then they came for me… and there was no one left to speak out.”
There may be times when we do have to be scapegoats and bear the weight and discomfort of complaining so that others won’t go through what we did. I thought about this during this recent matter in which I decided not to complain. But then I also forced myself to think about what my personal motives were and I also tried to see things through the other party’s eyes. Sometimes we have valid complaints, but we may not know the whole story. For these reasons, I feel that even though this still bothers me sometimes, I made the right choice.
Of course it’s best to avoid this stress altogether by trying to settle small battles before they become big ones. Our country is filled with frivolous lawsuits and this has become an excuse by government to try to take away our legitimate rights to sue in more important matters.
And that’s just one more reason why we need to choose our battles carefully.
Helena Rodriguez is a columnist for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org