“You can’t make everyone happy; you’re not pizza.”
I saw these words on a plaque a couple of months ago and I knew I had to have it. As a lifelong people-pleaser, I have spent the past several years learning the hard way that it’s simply impossible to please everyone. Add to that the fact that I love pizza and it became imperative that I see these words as a reminder Every. Single. Day.
My calling leads me to the center of discomfort on a daily basis. Enough outside my comfort zone where growth can happen, but not so far out that I require a blanket fort to cope. In this messy, awkward, super uncomfortable middle is where I’ve discovered that magic happens! It’s where I try to get others to join me in seeing the world in a new way. However, no matter how I try to engage people, I get judged by people standing outside of my arena who tell me I’m doing it wrong. I can be kind and empathetic. I can be hurt and pleading. I can be angry and confrontational (though rarely). No matter how I engage, someone always sees me as pushing away people who see things differently than I do. So what is left? Silence? I refuse.
Standing My Ground Despite Discomfort
Did I mention I’m a people-pleaser and I don’t want to alienate people? I don’t want anyone to not like me! Unfortunately, I’ve learned that most of the time standing my sacred ground and speaking up means I’m not going to be pizza.
I was born without the ability to be an idle witness to people hurting people (especially the ones who are already hurting). So I’ve learned to speak up, in the kindest way possible, of course. I intend to always make sure that bigotry, hatred, and ignorance don’t go unchecked, so I lean into uncomfortable conversations when necessary.
I generally FULLY consider how to word what I say to whom every time I speak or write. I’ve learned that people willing to grow welcome the kind of perspective challenges that I offer. People ready or willing to grow, or people needing to know they are not alone are always my target audience.
I understand from being a teacher that no matter what I say, I have zero chance of being 100% effective with everyone. People will filter the words I say through their own experiences and education, and each person will interpret the exact same message differently. Because of this, chances are pretty great that some people will become defensive or angry in response to my words meant to educate, inspire, or create empathy around controversial or taboo topics. But they are not my target audience AND…
Being an Ally is Better Than Being Pizza
When I stand with people actually affected by the personal politics happening right now, I amplify their voices AND show visible support. I hope people who aren’t affected by these “political issues” will choose to see things from a different point of view instead of disengaging entirely. I want them to recognize how incredibly blessed they are to have the position in life to be “done with politics”. A person with the privilege to feel annoyed by political discourse instead of having the political decisions ruining their actual life is a lucky person, indeed!
I may not always be trying to raise awareness of the suffering and atrocities happening to American people right now in the “right way”, but at least I’m trying. I will not be a silent bystander to what others have the privilege to choose to ignore.
For me, being a visible ally to any and all marginalized folks means that the opportunity to let scared or hurting people know they’re not alone, that they are loved and they are valued, is more important than worrying about angering the comfortable people. Some folks will inevitably find my words ineffective. The audience they have in mind when they hear or read the things I have to say may not be the same to which I am actually speaking. Thankfully, I know my words hit their mark more often than not. This is my calling. I’m using the skills that God has given me of empathy and story-telling, and I know I am reaching who God wants me to reach with those gifts. So if I piss off the Pharisees while advocating for marginalized folks, so be it. Even Jesus wasn’t pizza.
Helping Others Navigate Discomfort
I believe that silence and apathy toward injustice aren’t any better than consent. I also believe most people don’t want to be silent or apathetic, but many are afraid. They want to be pizza, too, and haven’t yet experienced that being an ally is better than being pizza.
Change happens faster with each additional person empowered to speak out, so helping people face their fears and learn to speak out is one of my passions. I didn’t have a guide to walk with me, and it was lonely, sad and scary. The upside is that my experience gave me a tender spot for people who are trying to find their way to the middle and find their voice. I often aim my messages to people already in that uncomfortable spot of being called and becoming aware. They’re considering stepping into the messy middle but fear is holding them back. These are my people. I find them, or they find me, and I offer to walk with them through discomfort and awareness.
In the end, I’m incredibly honored that I often get to see how my words and actions inspire others to take action of their own (even when my critics think I’m getting it wrong). None of us can make everyone happy and that’s OK. Even Eleanor Roosevelt, fierce champion of human rights, surely knew it was better to be an ally than to be pizza as she left us with these immortal words:
“Do what you feel in your heart to be right- for you’ll be criticized anyway. You’ll be damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.”
On that cheery note, what do we have to lose? I think all I’ve lost is the weight of trying to meet everyone’s expectations! I’m cool with that. Seriously. No regrets.