Assertive Advocate or Annoying Adversary

My “Gram” (my mom’s mom) passed away when I was 4 years old but defied the odds by living well into her 60’s even with a serious heart condition that plagued her entire life. My mom mentioned to me the other day that at “Gram’s” funeral, the pastor said, when giving the eulogy, that even though he and my grandmother didn’t always get along (she was involved in leadership at their church) he always respected her, because he knew that Gram’s assertiveness came from a strong heart for advocacy and not for the sake of being adversarial. She made sure that the church was always considering and respecting the concerns and passions of as many of the congregants as possible. That really struck me after I heard it because I think that’s a really important distinction to make. I know that my Gram’s heart for others arose from her own drive to survive and thrive. Instead of choosing the “dog eat dog” mentality that so many people do, she chose the, what I like to call, “dog meet dog” mentality which is way more powerful and always wins out in the end no matter what the contrary may suggest. The “dog meet dog” mentality (“hey let’s understand each other instead of cannibalize each other”) is the heart and soul of an “Assertive Advocate” and the “dog eat dog” mentality (the world is out to get you, every man for themselves) is the heart of an “Annoying Adversary”. I mentioned to my mom how I wanted to blog about this and we debated on what to call each type of person and I said that I think it’s really important that I use the word “annoying” to describe people that are adversarial (due to their arrogance or pride or ego) because it puts them in their proper place and to describe them any other way would be a disservice to those out there (myself included) that truly believe in the importance of “Assertive Advocacy”.

SOLIDARITY!!!

If you were to ask me what annoys me the most and what my biggest pet peeves are, I would say: injustice and the marginalization of people, or in other words seeing people being stepped on, abused, ignored, and taken advantage of; and also the flip of that; narcissism, arrogance; shameless self promotion; people set in their ways, and people not being self aware…AT ALL. I’ve always been assertive, but haven’t always been able to find the proper balance with how and when to assert myself. As a filmmaker/writer I’ve struggled with the concept of “self promotion”, because no matter how I try to go about it, it always feels shameless to me. I think I fear being that guy that says “hey everybody look at me and what I can do! I’m super awesome, right?” and everyone just rolling their eyes (I’ll be honest…that’s how I would react), that’s why I like having a manger/agent and other surrogates that do that for me (thank you guys).  A mentor of mine, a writer/speaker actually, told me (and has in fact written about it) that “everyone is just looking for their battle to fight (or their cause)”. Now that I’ve found that literal battle, I have no problem with asserting myself and to just quote the 90’s hip hop sensation Tony! Toni! Tone!…“it feels good”. Becoming active in the Brain Cancer community has taught me the importance of mobilization and being vocal and that if you want to create change you have no choice but to assert yourself (it also feels good to know that I have thousands of warriors joining in on the battle with me). This is all exciting for me because when I look back at my professional life (and activism this past year) I realize that a lot of my grandmother rubbed off on me. Whenever I’ve felt the need to assert myself (in a professional setting) in the past, it was always because I felt a sense of injustice around me (especially if I felt that my fellow co-workers were being mistreated) and I would often volunteer to take on the “harder” tasks for the sake of helping ease the load (don’t want to say I was a martyr…but…jk). If I ever worked for someone who was egocentric (meaning “ego fragile”), we’d always eventually butt heads. I now know that the conflict arose because I wasn’t “mirroring” them or reading their mind (sorry, guy, I don’t know what to say, I’m not Spock…although I wish I was, because I would mind meld the crap out of everyone). In those scenarios, my intention was never meant to be adversarial, and if it was, I would get super annoyed with myself, so I’ve very grateful to have that as built in accountability.

Being argumentative for the sake of being argumentative is stupid and if you’re a person that can never humble yourself and admit that you’re wrong, and like to yell and scream your point of view (no matter what it is) let me tell you something…no, come closer, I’ll whisper it in your ear, “NO ONE LIKES YOU!!! and “NOBODY IS LISTENING TO YOU!” All we’re hearing is an “ANNOYING” buzzing sound and all we’re seeing are a bunch of one’s and zeroes. If you think you have people in your “camp”, that’s because you know deep down that you are flawed and weak and (to continue with the Star Trek references) you need to all assimilate like the Borg to feel like you have value.  If you only knew how much smack talking went on behind your back then maybe you’d stop being such a jerk. Nobody will confront you because, to them, you are just a lost cause. Your arrogance and ego is sucking all the air around you dry, and your self imposed self importance is only distorting and clouding the voices of the humble, servant hearted, and worthy advocates around you who are speaking about things that actually matter (and in a way that is actually productive). The good news for you is that forgiveness is always here if you finally wake up to your bully mentality and those (you may be shocked by this description) “strong minded” people around you who have chosen to have the graciousness and patience to put up with your nonsense would like nothing more than to forgive you. In fact they would be so relieved to do so, that you would actually grant them several years of their life back (because all the pain and stress you’ve caused them has been slowly killing them). Like what God desired from the Apostle Paul, we’d all like to see that zealous nature of yours be put to good use and we’d hate to have to blind you to make you see the errors of your ways. You can start the refining process now though, it just requires a very basic understanding of astronomy. The world revolves around the Sun…not you!

My point in all this is to hopefully inspire those of you who may (on a conscious or unconscious level) feel intimidated by strong personalities, to find the courage to speak up and be an “Assertive Advocate” for what it is you believe in (especially if you are all aboard the cause of fighting Brain Cancer and raising awareness). Something that I like to tell people is that there is a very strong distinction between being nice and being kind. Being nice is an appeasing and passive choice where as being kind is a proactive choice (It’s His kindness, after all, that leads us to repentance ) and don’t ever underestimate the power that comes with that choice, I mean the famous phrase does say “kill them with kindness”, and I can’t really think of anything more proactive than killing someone…sadly. The very essence of an “Assertive Advocate” is kindness. So it’s time to stop being nice and allowing people to try to undermine the power we possess and equip ourselves with the assault weapons known as “passion” and “kindness” and start advocating tirelessly. I know there is an enormous fire burning in your belly (I get messages every day from you saying exactly that) so what are we waiting for?  This is the 21st century and thanks to the internet, you now have a platform simply because you’ve paid for broadband and/or a cell phone, so let’s not waste this opportunity, and let’s not be intimidated. If you are on board the hope train with me, you can join me in continuing my Gram’s legacy (and also the legacy of David Pearson and Bob White) by being an “Assertive Advocate”. Please Share this. Please let people know about Operation: ABC and have them “LIKE” it. Please check out my podcast Out of the Grey on iTunes (there are more episodes coming next week). This may seem like shameless self promotion but these are just a couple examples of things that I’m trying to do to Assert myself in my spare time and I can’t stay silent about it. You can let me know what you’re doing and I’ll share it, it’s what we “dog meet dog” peeps do. The passengers are continuing to load the Hope Train at this time but there are still plenty of seats left. Let’s load ‘er up, and let me just close by saying if from time to time we need to be “Annoying Adversaries” to fight fire with fire or even recruit a few, as long as we’re getting more people on board, then so be it. This is a battle worth fighting alongside anyone who is willing.

Solidarity!

Alex

“A Reactionary is a somnambulist (sleepwalker) walking backwards.”  ~ FDR

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