I was asked last weekend:
“You’re very outspoken about lots of things. Like vaccinations, for example. Aren’t you worried that your friends who choose to remain unvaccinated will get angry at you for what you say and write?”
“Apparently not,” I said. “Otherwise I wouldn’t speak and write so adamantly on the subject.”
I wasn’t being coy. It’s true. I don’t worry.
I don’t worry for three reasons:
First, I care about my friends, so if they’re unvaccinated, I want them to get vaccinated and will continue to speak openly and clearly on the issue, hoping it might make a difference.
Second, I assume that my friends want me to be me. If a friend wants me to muzzle myself on certain topics lest I make them uncomfortable about their own position, they probably aren’t a very good friend.
As one of my friends once said, “Matt lives out loud.”
If you’re my friend, you know that. This means that every single time I do something stupid, embarrassing, foolish, or ridiculous, I’ll happily share that with the world, much to the delight of many people.
But it also means that if I strongly believe something, I’ll share that, too.
The alternative, it seems to me, would be a vanilla world, absent of sharp edges and unexpected twists and turns that make life interesting
No, thank you.
But here’s the most important reason:
I once had two very religious friends who would often warn me that if I didn’t find belief in God, I would burn in hell. I didn’t think burning in hell was a realistic expectation (and I still don’t), so although their warnings were both harsh and persistent, they didn’t bother me. In my heart, I knew it wasn’t true, so I simply smiled and ignored their warnings.
But they remained my friends. Their intentions were good. It was their doctrine that was bad.
I also have a friend who routinely tells me that Diet Coke will kill me. I don’t think this is true (nor do any of my doctors), so although his warnings are constant, persistent, and somewhat authoritarian, they are also easily ignored.
He’s still my friend. He’s just hell bent on offering me bad advice.
Good intentions. Bad information.
If a friend, neighbor, or colleague isn’t vaccinated and believes that it’s the right decision for them, nothing I say should have any impact on them. Just like I can put aside threats of burning in hell and warnings about Diet Coke because I don’t believe either to be true, my friends and colleagues should be able to look past my opinions on vaccines, too, and be secure in their own beliefs.
If they are bothered by what I say, perhaps the strength of their convictions isn’t quite what they thought it was or pretended it to be. In that case, maybe I can change their minds after all.
Either way, I wouldn’t ask my friend or colleague to blunt their opinions to protect my feelings. I might ask them to refrain from offering their opinion while I’m trying to sink a putt or enjoying a cheeseburger or collecting my American of the Year award, but if the forum is appropriate and the timing is right, I wouldn’t be upset about their opposing view.
Nor should my friends.
So am I afraid that my friends, or even my acquaintances, will be upset by what I say or write?
Not at all. When they disagree, they let me know. Or ignore me. Or grumble about me behind my back.
Either way, I get to be me, and they continue to be my friends.
Also, if you’re not vaccinated against COVID-19, get vaccinated, damn it. You’re already vaccinated against a dozen other deadly diseases already. You’ve already contributed to the eradication of polio, the mumps, diphtheria, meningitis, small pox, and many more.
What’s one more?