I used to think that being soft was a bad thing.
It was not masculine. It was weak. It was something to be ashamed of. After all, in American culture, we’re often taught to be hard and rigid. To stand up for ourselves. To speak our minds. To fight for what we believe in. After all, this is the land of the opportunity. This is the home of the first amendment. This is where we need to fight and claw our ways to the very top.
Growing up, I was never the most outspoken kid in the classroom. Participating in class was always my weak spot. I’d try to speak on what’s right, and fight for my beliefs, but at the end of the day that wasn’t really me. What’s right for me may be wrong for others. I tend to more prefer just going with the flow. To pick my battles here and there. To believe in myself, but also be tolerant of other people’s beliefs. To think from contrasting perspectives.
I find more meaning in being able to empathize and being able to find value in every train of thought out there. In every culture. In every personality. In every profession. Everyone has something of value that they can bring to the table. In that sense, it almost feels like I’m being soft like tofu.
I remember Bruce Lee has that famous saying of “be water”. Be with the present. Be with your mind. Accept things as they are. Because we can’t control how a lot of things shakeup in this world. And just be flexible. Be open to new opportunities. Open to new angles and analyses.
That doesn’t mean that you just become a doormat, and let people walk all over you. It is far from that. It means to simply be tolerant and willing to see things differently. Even if some beliefs may not speak internally to you. Or even if you feel conflicted or even annoyed by certain beliefs. That’s okay.
I had a productive conversation about the benefits of vaccines with a fellow friend last year. This was back when COVID was more of a predominant issue, and Omicron was in the midst of spreading rapidly across my city and the nation as a whole. This guy was a pharmacist and I considered him to be a mentor of mine. Yet, even while working in the field of pharmaceuticals, he was completely against the idea of taking vaccines.
Up to then, I had always felt like vaccines were a good thing. After all, they are a miracle of modern science. And as research shows, they significantly protect us from being hospitalized or infected in general. And with a disease as contagious as COVID spreading around, you would think that vaccinations are a must in most people’s minds. At least, that’s how I saw it from my perspective.
But that conversation with my friend opened up a whole new world for me. He gave me a laundry list of reasons why he didn’t find vaccines to be helpful or necessary for the human population. I won’t get into the entire list here because that’s very private. But overall, I found myself enthralled by his perspective. And at that moment, I learned new things and felt like my mind was unlocked towards a whole new level.
Having said that, I never budged on my belief that vaccines are a tremendous service to humanity. I simply listened to his perspective of his truth and empathized with open arms. I didn’t try to disparage nor insult his beliefs. I didn’t try to impose my opinion on him neither about how I felt like vaccines were a benefit to humanity and how it is necessary for everyone to get vaccinated from COVID.
I simply listened, and I wasn’t insulted by his perspective. I did not feel like I was coming under attack just because he didn’t believe in vaccines, and I did. It was just two regular people having a conversation about a topic that was prevalent in society on that day. And I felt grateful to have had that experience.
If I were rigid and hard about my beliefs, I may have attacked his opinions. I may have belittled him. I may even have discarded him as a friend. But, in fact, I was soft. I was water. I was tofu. I was simply there to be present and to be in the moment and to listen.
So, on that day, I gained a new perspective on vaccines. I continue to hold that contrasting perspective in my mind up to this day. And I must admit that it has influenced my outlook on vaccines by a little bit. But that’s what happens when you have a productive discussion in any relevant topic in the world.
Be open to having your thoughts change here and there. Be open to being influenced. Be open to being impacted. Be open to conflicting and contrasting beliefs. It’s easier said than done. But I think that’s one way how human beings can excel, grow their wisdom, and move society in the right general direction.
So, it’s okay to be soft. It’s okay to be like water. Like tofu. Be open and welcoming. Even to those from the perceived other side.