Years ago now Tom encouraged me to read a book entitled Your Perfect Right. It's all about assertiveness and it's one of the very best things I've ever read. I suggest that all people everywhere read it (we'd all be much kinder and better if we did).
Here's the long and short of it: there is passive, there is assertive, and there is aggressive (and--oh yeah--passive aggressive, which is umbrella-ed under the AGGRESSIVE category). Assertiveness has to do with speaking honestly, in the moment, in a way that allows all parties to be heard.
One of the things that really stuck with me is that in situations where you ALREADY KNOW THAT NO GOOD WILL COME FROM SPEAKING UP, TO DO SO, IS AGGRESSIVE. This one bothered me. Because it felt somehow unfair. Because I wanted to be heard, darn it. But the thing is, in both professional and personal settings, sometimes whatever you might say--even if it is the most thought-out, reasonable thing in the wold--may change nothing. And if that's the case, it's not worth saying in the first place. Some things are like summer humidity, all you can do is live through them and wait for the season to change. And if the season doesn't change, then it may be best to walk away or leave, with as much kindness as you can muster. Because as Drew Barrymore (I KNOW!) once said: endless love and constant boundaries. Which occasionally means the boundary becomes: walk away. With grace, walk away.
I read something recently about letting grace be bigger than our mouths. That's what I'm grappling with right now. Grace. To assert my worth, to set some boundaries, and to do it with as much grace as I possibly can, which very often means NOT SAYING EVERYTHING I WANT TO. Or, in other words, SHUTTING UP.
Because here's the thing about life: there are end-dates. People move out and friends grow apart and the humidity does pass. And sometimes a person gets on a plane and goes somewhere else entirely and life begins again and we do our best--even if it's a stumbling, stuttering attempt--we do our best.