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“Don’t be so @”*#$% stubborn!” Yes, we were brought up with the idea that being stubborn is a bad thing. What’s the opposite? Being cooperative, flexible, and manageable. While men who are stubborn may be thought of as strong-willed, in most cultures a stubborn woman has traditionally been a person to be avoided. But what’s good about being manageable?
A manageable person can be led, manipulated, handled. What happens to your ability to think for yourself, make independent decisions, or choose your own priorities? What happens to your ability to make yourself happy?
Granted, being led is much calmer. Couples who follow traditional roles without question have fewer conflicts. What is there to talk about? So, those who are comfortable accepting roles that were set by culture (i.e., the man takes out the garbage and repairs the cars; the woman cooks, cleans, and tends the children) can look forward to a smooth relationship. Are they happier? Not necessarily. They’re simply less stressed. It’s a choice.
Meanwhile, those couples that are composed of partners—people who are together purely because they want to be together and not because either half is incomplete alone—will have plenty to discuss. They may be cooperative, but they avoid being manageable. They use both minds to make decisions. Research tells us that contested decisions tend to be better than ones made by a single person acting alone in spite of the fact that joint decisions take more time.
Even if you’re not a part of a couple or group, you need to be stubborn. The world seems to conspire to drive us into fear, resentment for all that we think we’re missing, and disgust for our selves. Entertainment tells us we must be protected by superheroes to kill the bad guys who are sometimes not too different from the good guys. Regular people exist to be victims in those films. Unfortunately, too many regular people accept that assignment in real life instead of looking for ways to contribute to a solution.
Speaking for myself, I refuse to be unhappy indefinitely. If I’m in an intolerable situation, I act as my own hero and take myself out—not as quickly as I should sometimes, but eventually. The same principle goes for being in an emotional dilemma. You can wallow in your unhappiness, slurping up misery, regret, and hopelessness, or you can scratch your way out. We make films about people who were the victims of terrible circumstances, took matters into their own hands, and changed the scene. I just watched an interview by Oprah Winfrey with comedian Tracy Morgan in which he revealed how he deliberately chose to change directions in his life several times: he ran away from a neighborhood that would eventually have killed him, away from dealing drugs for money and abusing alcohol for self medication, and finally, chose life when he was already on the outskirts of death. He calls laughter his faith and in that he’s worthy.
To be stubborn is to stick up for yourself, to respect your own life. No one else can make you happy any more than you can make someone else happy. Once you insist on being happy, you begin seeing lessons and possibilities where there was despair. You stop listening to the people who don’t respect you. You see you’re not alone and you permit other people to help you as you help other people. You allow yourself to experience your own power. So, say thank you when you’re described as being stubborn. You’re saving more than yourself.