When to Resist and When to Desist

I don’t focus on what I’m up against. I focus on my goals and I try to ignore the rest. — Venus Williams

The now-common #resist reminds us to take a step back and consciously decide on what we want to focus our thoughts, time, and effort.

On the one hand, what we resist, persists. Many would agree we definitely don’t want that as an outcome!

On the other hand, we don’t want to bury our heads in the sand:

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.” — Martin Niemöller

How do we find balance? Whether it’s with a broader world scene over which you feel you have little control, or situations in daily life that frustrate you — your boss, the traffic in your commute, your noisy neighbors — figuring out how to shift your focus and spend your time and energy in a useful way is important.

Consider these factors when deciding whether to resist or desist:


1. Do the words, language, and tone you’re using to deal with a situation resonate with who you really are?

For example, a friend of mine posted on Facebook about how she disliked the whole “Nasty Woman” campaign because words have power and energy behind them, and no matter how angry we are, we shouldn’t adopt language that’s harmful to us. Even if it’s in the spirit of reclaiming a negative phrase, she disagreed with using the phrase.

Similarly, the words we use to describe others also have energy. Even if we aren’t using that ugly energy to describe ourselves, speaking it about others doesn’t help us either. It’s not a good use of your energy to call your boss or the drivers in the cars next to you terrible names. Refocus your thoughts to something more positive. At the very least maybe you’ll keep your blood pressure down!

2. Do you get irrationally angry or sad and get stuck in an unusually negative emotional place when dealing with issues that frustrate you?

Life can’t just be about positive, artificially sunny emotions. But dwelling on the negative, especially things you can’t control, won’t do you any good.

Take a step back and consider how you can spend your time productively to influence the situation: Write letters to the right government officials, leave for work earlier in the morning, look for a new job, talk politely with your neighbors. Consider logical, productive actions to take, rather than just fuming and festering about a situation. Don’t go through life just reacting to the outside world. Rather, be aware of the choices you’re making and take well-considered action accordingly.

Figure what, if anything, you can do, do it, then move on to something else.

3. Do you tend to view situations as all or nothing, without looking for middle ground?

Sometimes, wrong is just wrong, and we have to take a stand. But many times there’s middle ground to be found if we just take the time and make the effort to look for it. So instead of quitting your job and leaving an otherwise good company, can you get transferred to a different group or department? If you love your apartment complex but not your neighbors, can you move to a new unit?

Try to look for whatever shreds of good you can find in a situation you can’t immediately change. You’ll improve your mood, and you’ll be sending a clear message to the Universe that you want more of what’s good, rather than what’s not.

What techniques do you use to decide if it’s worth it for you to resist or to choose to desist?

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