In a world that at times seems so desperate for yes or no, this or that, black or white, there are increasingly more shades of gray than many might consider or are willing to accept. People want to know they are right, not maybe, not sometimes, not “it depends.” But in life there is little that is black or white, not even black and white. A 2021 Wall Street Journal article noted Benjamin Moore Paints carries 153 shades of white and off-white, and PPG distributes over 300 whites. Most artists recognize 8 to 10 shades of black. What is one to do? Embrace the gray!
Sure, there are some absolutes in the world but more likely you are punishing yourself by refusing to accept that parts of all sides exist to make the whole. Consider the mental health side of yourself.
It is perfectly permissible to be strong for others and still ask for help. So often people feel if they are seen as “the strong one,” whether in a relationship, at work, in a group of friends, or with the family, they must always be “the strong one,” showing no doubt or hesitation, and certainly never asking for help. There is also a correlation that one who often asks for help cannot also be one to be relied on. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. It is not unusual that by exorcising our weaknesses we discover new strengths, and one of the strongest strengths is a willingness to share what one knows and how we can help others grow beyond their uncertainties. As we’ve said before nobody should strive to be always the smartest one in the room. How we recognize and address our doubts and hesitations goes a long way to learning how to be as strong as we can be for others.
Another gray zone that can turn into a happy place is the space you inhabit when you realize you can be both honest and kind. The idea of being “brutally honest” has no place in our people-to-people connections. Unlike truth, which exists just for itself, honesty cannot exist without interpretation and so there is no such thing as unvarnished honesty. An honest person is disciplined, authentic, and sincere. They accept the responsibility that comes with following what they believe to be true but do not insist on unflinching agreement. They would rather discuss and uncover what their communication partner believes to be true before rejecting alternate considerations.
We will leave you one that so many struggle with. You can be not liked by somebody and still not be their enemy. Conversely, you can both not like someone and at the same time not expect animosity from that person for it. This is a most difficult challenge in our ever increasingly polarizing society. It is perfectly acceptable to like only parts of someone, to want to socialize with somebody at only certain occasions, or to even carry on intellectually stimulating conversations regarding your differences. We can love our neighbors without liking them. We owe everybody respect and compassion and can do that while agreeing that differences of opinions are inevitable. That does not mean that we must completely cut those people from our lives.
There is no reason the broad brush that paints the world must be dipped in black or white. By embracing the many shades of gray we acknowledge that life is part of each, and that is the first step in creating an even more colorful world.