Confrontation is Courage


Stuti Upadhyay

For the longest time, I would compromise for anything and everything. I absolutely hated any form of confrontation.

Any time I was in an argument or encountered some sort of issue, I would be the first person to apologize. In fact, I would over apologize. Most of the time, I wasn’t apologizing because I regretted my decisions; I still believed what I did was perfectly justified. I just thought an apology was the easiest way to move on, to put things in the past and keep everyone happy.

And I thought I was making the more practical decision. I believed confrontation, and to a certain extent, disagreement, was the same as picking stupid fights. One too many times I have seen my friends and classmates argue over things like clothes or boys or secrets, and I would always wonder why they just wouldn’t apologize and move forward.

But gradually, my perspective on confrontation has begun to change. And the catalyst for this change, as ridiculous at it sounds, was a quote from popstar Pink. When asked what advice Pink would like to pass on to her kids, she said, “You’re not always going to be popular when you’re a woman with a lot of opinions, and you don’t back down and you don’t apologize and you don’t change for them. It’s hard.”

For some reason, this quote spoke to me. I read it four times. I screenshotted it. I couldn’t, and still can’t, get it out of my head.

And after reading that quote, I realized for the first time that confrontation is a necessary part of life.

If I am not willing to stand by my opinions and beliefs, no matter how trivial they may be, then I stand for nothing. If I just cast aside my perspectives at the slightest sign of conflict, then I cannot respect myself as a person.

The more I began to think about this issue, the more it greeted me at every turn. For example, often times I hear the words “retarded,” “autistic” or “cancerous” being used in jokes. And for the longest time, I would hear these words and wince but say nothing. Sometimes, if the joke was really funny, I would even laugh along with everyone else. I didn’t want to confront the speaker and make a scene. I didn’t want to be that person who people had to watch what they say around. Thus, my fear for confrontation kept me silent.

I’ve seen this issue become applicable when I’m defending my friends. I’ve always tried to be the neutral party in any conflict. Granted, I would always be willing to help and listen to my friends’ problems, but when it came to public confrontations, my philosophy was to stay out of it. They may be my friends, but their conflict is their conflict. I didn’t want to get involved.

Even more directly, I felt this issue arise whenever someone acted in a way that hurt me. I chose, time and time again, to ignore my feelings. I told myself that I was just being overly sensitive. I let the person in question continue to hurt me while acting like everything’s okay, because I was convinced that confronting them would only cause more problems.

It took that quote from Pink and a whole lot of reflecting to realize that I am the problem. What type of leader am I if I do what’s easy rather than do what’s right? What type of friend am I if I put my personal aversion towards conflict above others’ need for support? What type of person am I if I can not stand up for myself just because it would entail butting heads with other people?

As these situations kept coming up, I was forced to gradually acknowledge that my justifications for avoiding confrontation were mostly based in fear. Living in a sheltered area like Cupertino, where the types of people and ideas we encounter are similar, I feel like we have been trained to see confrontation and disagreement as a negative, but disagreements aren’t a bad thing. Sometimes a disagreement is exactly what we need to consider a perspective that differs from ours.

I’m not saying we should turn every minor issue into a confrontation, but no one should hesitate from speaking their mind. It’s way more important to be true to your ideals and your values than to be well liked.

I have chosen any avenue other than confrontation because I want to be kind and liked. And although those are good qualities to have, I also need to be bold and courageous.

So I have started to speak up a little more. To correct others when they use words like “autistic” and “retarded” as a joke. To go out of my way to stand up for my friends. To respectfully communicate my emotions to others. And although it is a slow and long journey, I am gradually becoming more accepting of confrontation.