(If you’re only here for the Creamy Mushroom Pasta, then please hit the jump to recipe button up above!)
In what you say of another, apply the test of kindness, necessity and truth, and let nothing pass your lips without a 2/3 majority.
So…I Told You
For most of my life, I didn’t understand (and I definitely didn’t appreciate) that simply because you have an opinion–even a “helpful” one–it doesn’t mean that you need to share it. I always figured that if I was in the position to see how you were screwing up your life, repeating the same mistakes over and over again, then it was my duty as a friend/sister/daughter/wife to point it out to you. It didn’t matter if my opinion was asked for, needed, or even wanted. What mattered was that I had the perspective (and clarity) of distance and, quite frankly, knew exactly where you were going wrong.
So, being a thoughtful person…I told you.
I mean, sure, I have a lot of common sense and so maybe my suggestions were good ones. Actually, they probably were good ones. Problem solving is one of my specialties, and I especially relish doling out bits (or mouthfuls) of sound and solid advice that has helped me through similar troubles in the past. I’m also matter-of-fact, levelheaded, and reasonable. It’s easy for me to see the problem area and precisely how to remedy it. And if I don’t figure it out the first time, then I’m going to keep at it until I do (because did I mention I’m tenacious, too?).
I also figure that you must obviously want to make things right, because who wouldn’t want to make things right? Who wouldn’t want to be happy? Who wouldn’t want to try any worthy suggestion tossed at them, rather than live out their repeated cycle of pain?
So, being an honest person…I told you.
A Whole Lot Easier
Thankfully, somewhere along the line I started to see my foolhardy opinion-sharing ways through different eyes. It had a little bit to do with maturity, and a little bit more to do with humility (because really, how much do I actually know?). It had an awful lot to do with having some unasked for advice shoved down my (gagging) throat. But mostly, I credit my change to one wisdom-guided source: my beloved guru. His thoughts on the subject? Do not give advice unless asked for. Period.
As always, Yoganandaji’s timing was impeccable, and I was ripe for the lesson when it arrived; virtually overnight my “unchangeable” behaviors of forty years…changed. I think I was only able to fully understand and appreciate his teachings at that precise moment because I’d just recently found myself on the wrong side of unsolicited advice. I saw and felt firsthand the negative energies it can create and the walls I put up (and the troubles that ensued). Pretty much from that point on, the doling out of advice stopped (unless requested). When it is now given, it’s always spoken in a spirit of love. And with kindness. That quote at the top? I think solicited advice and opinions should meet all three criteria. Every time.
Maybe for some the muzzling of opinions wouldn’t be a monumental adjustment, but for me it was huge; it affected so many facets of my life and my relationships. It actually made living a whole lot happier (and far less stressful) for a while. But then I had to go and do something ridiculous like join Instagram. And start a blog. Launch a business (or two). I recklessly cannnonballed myself right back into the online community that I thought I’d made a clean break from. And you know what I quickly remembered? That there are an awful lot of people out here who could really benefit from the teachings of my guru. An awful, awful lot.
The way that I blog and Instagram–the way that I live my whole life, actually–is pretty “trendy” right now; vulnerability is the word of the moment. But this isn’t me, fitting into mainstream society; this is me, always. When the whole vulnerability phase has played itself out, I’ll still be here, sharing my heart and my struggles, because it’s just how I play the game. Not because I consciously made the choice to be vulnerable, but because I consciously made the choice to be honest. And authentic.
But when you share your secrets, share your pain, and share your lessons, you open yourself up to a whole new level of critique. All of a sudden, just because I’m being my honest self, it seems to send the message that it’s okay for you to be your honest self right back. Not about your own life (which would be fine), but about mine and the way that I live it.
Consider Yourself Blocked
I see this doling out of unsolicited advice and opinions far too frequently in the land of social media. I watch as a fellow blogger is sent reeling and finds herself (in a knee-jerk reaction) modifying her behavior in response to passive-aggressive, nasty comments left by readers. Anxieties and insecurities are quickly triggered. Doubt creeps in.
Or a select few (thankfully) of Jordan’s Insta followers who tell her that putting herself in the public eye is synonymous with asking for the unwanted opinions. Basically, what they’re saying is: deal with it, you asked for it. She vehemently disagrees and has no qualms with deleting ugly comments and blocking ugly followers who only make an appearance when they have something condemning to say. Or an argument to start. Or a name to call. Irritation and frustration are quickly triggered. Anger creeps in.
Honestly, it’s everywhere. And the bigger you are, the louder and more aggressive are the condemnations. All of a sudden, behind the obscurity and safety of a glass screen, the “smallest” person is now judge and jury (even though the evidence is limited to nonexistent). And the verdicts leveled are often scathing and meant to cut to the quick. It makes “jury of my peers” sound more than a little terrifying…
But Do I Have To?
And at first glance it all seems kind of cruel; these individuals and their comments just seem rotten to the core. But in the name of simple kindness, I feel compelled to step back and give them the benefit of the doubt. I mean, yes, we all know that some of the critics are just plain mean. They’re sad humans in pain, and so they seek to create more pain (in others), in some desperate attempt to alleviate their own. But we’re just going to ignore those select individuals while I generously give the benefit of the doubt to all the rest of the naysayers. All the rest who might even think that they’re being helpful. Because maybe they don’t know, literally don’t have a clue, how much of a struggle it can be to hit that share button some days.
Because while this whole “vulnerability” thing has become second nature to me, some days sharing is still surprisingly hard. I know the subjects that will likely be controversial (just say the word “vegan” and hackles go up). And I know the ones that will be blatantly ignored because of their spiritual subject matter (especially evident on Instagram). There are those moments when my finger hovers over publish and I wonder: but do I have to? (I usually do, for reasons I can’t quite explain.) But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that it sometimes takes a moderate amount of courage to put some of these personal thoughts out there for all to read. For all to judge. For all to criticize.
So maybe these “helpful” others have no idea how painful it can be to find yourself ruthlessly under attack after baring a little bit of your soul. Cutting criticisms and disapproving opinions can be hard to swallow when they’ve been asked for, but when they haven’t? So much worse. My immediate emotional reactions run the gamut from wanting to stalk off into the wild like Chris McCandless (and get as far away from humans as possible), to tearing my “friendly” critic a new one. I’d do it eloquently and intelligently, but they’d find themselves with a new one just the same.
But as already stated, I’m blessed to have a wise guru holding my hand and constantly speaking guidance in my ear. Stay right where you are is second only to absolutely no tearing of new ones. And because of his teachings (and his cautions), when I find myself face to face with the unasked for critiques, he’s taught me to look deeper than the initial stab of pain. Because this is the precise moment where I might find my silver lining. Sometimes, my blessings. This is where I gauge how much I’ve grown (or just as likely, haven’t grown).
Somehow once that publish button has been tapped, that small gulp of courage transforms into equal amounts of newly gathered strength. A thickening of the skin. An increased awareness that should those cutting words come, they might carry some truth I’ve been avoiding. Or, even better, a more assured sense of who I truly am beyond the inaccurate judgments. A knowing that the words don’t really matter: God sees, God knows. And do I really need any more approval than that?
I’m also developing a growing sense that people aren’t usually reacting to me, but to their own pain/guilt/insecurities. The understanding becomes more and more evident that people aren’t necessarily seeing Melinda, but a reflection of themselves in me (all too often the parts of themselves that they don’t like; sorry about that). Which makes me wonder: If I were to poll my readers/friends/family, how many would give an accurate description of who I really am? I imagine that out of one hundred people, I’d get one hundred different interpretations. Would any of them be right? Would any of them be wrong?
I think that maybe one of the biggest dangers of the online route our society seems to be taking is that maybe we (chose to?) forget that beyond the screen/the words/the post,/the picture, is an actual living and breathing human being. Making ourselves “public” (and I say that about myself in fairly self-deprecating terms) doesn’t make us any less human. We still feel and we still care. The sting of those biting remarks still smarts. Spouting bits of hurtful advice from behind the safety of a device isn’t brave. Judging, belittling, and shaming aren’t cool. Or mature. Or kind.
But what worries me the most is that not everyone has a guru to guide them and a God they know to lean on. Right now in particular, the world seems rife with broken people–people just getting by–and you never really know what’s going on behind that beaming smile. At one time my beaming smile hid a river of pain so wide and so deep it felt like it had no end. And what if that one cutting criticism is left on the page of someone struggling simply to stay alive–one breath away from washing their hands of this whole disaster of a life? What if that “helpful” advice is the cruelest thing we ever end up doing? In a world already overflowing with ways to bring a person down, why would anyone want to be the final straw?
I never have to wonder why God didn’t ask for my input when designing this world; I would have made everyone far too nice. While Love was divinely inspired to create this specific schoolroom to encourage us along–ripe with never-ending opportunities for increasing wisdom and growth–my blueprint would have been…different. And likely a ginormous failure.
Can you just imagine, for a minute, a world where people choose kindness as their very first mode of interaction? A world where you have the freedom to be who you truly are, without the masks or the pressures of crippling societal norms? Imagine a beautiful home where our differences are expressed and appreciated, where we can love who we love and follow where our hearts lead. A land where you can share your truth and it would be heard, but not judged; your courage applauded, not condemned. (Naturally, I’m not applauding the psychopaths here, because in my world there aren’t any. See? Our spiritual evolution would likely grind to a screeching halt if I were put in charge. Seriously, I’m not sure why I ever leave this imaginary world of mine…)
But how charitable it would be to stumble upon a heartfelt post that we disagree with (and that we have a strong argument against), but after realizing that our opinion hasn’t been asked for, we just…keep on scrolling. That’s it. Keep. On. Moving.
Because it’s nice. Loving. Compassionate.
Because we discover a newfound respect for the courage it takes to expose even a sliver of these vulnerable hearts.
Because we realize that far too often our helpful advice isn’t helpful at all, but more like little poison arrows serving only to break a broken person even more.
And what if this gift of deliberate silence (borne out of that love, compassion, and respect) was the biggest, most generous act of kindness we offered all day?
What if we stopped beating each other to a bloody pulp in the name of “truth”? Sigh. Now wouldn’t that be grand?
Give unsolicited advice, and you’ll get unsolicited advice. (And trust me, you don’t want that.)
But give love? You’ll get so much more love. And couldn’t we all just use a little bit more of that? In my imaginary world, we thrive on it.
Have a blessed week, my friends. Much love ~ Melinda
Recipe: Creamy Mushroom Pasta
(This Creamy Mushroom Pasta recipe is a slight variation–based on the available ingredients–of the Mushroom & Vegetable Skillet Dish found in my cookbook!)
- 16 ounces uncooked spaghetti
- 2 large Portabella mushrooms (sliced)
- 2 cups cooked black beans
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 1 medium onion (diced)
- 2 cups broccoli florets
- 1 large zucchini (diced)
- 1 tablespoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- 3 tablespoons coconut aminos
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- ½ cup coconut milk (cold)
- 1 tablespoon potato starch
1. Add the marinade ingredients to a bowl large enough to hold all of the vegetables once they've been steamed. Mix well.
2. Steam the broccoli and zucchini until tender, 8-10 minutes; add them to the marinade bowl. Stir well, cover, and let them soak while preparing all of the other ingredients; stir occasionally.
3. In a large skillet, saute the onion in 1-2 tablespoons of oil until soft and golden. Add the mushrooms and continue to saute until the water released from the mushrooms has been cooked off.
4. Prepare the spaghetti according to the directions found on the box; drain and rinse.
5. Add the steamed and marinated vegetables (along with all of the remaining marinade) to the skillet with the cooked onions and mushrooms; add 1 cup of coconut milk. Add the beans, basil, oregano, parsley, and salt; stir well. Cook over low to medium heat until the milk and beans are thoroughly warmed.
6. In a small bowl, thoroughly whisk together the other ½ cup of cold coconut milk and the potato starch (marinade thickeners). Immediately add to the skillet with the cooked vegetables. Cook over low heat for 2-3 minutes until the sauce has thickened.
7. Add the cooked pasta to the creamy vegetable mixture. Toss well and serve warm.