One of the things I’ve come to recognize and embrace over time is my love for the (so-called) troublemakers. I know the issue with them is right there in the name, but I can’t deny my soft spot for them.
It’s not that I think a troublemaker is always right. A troublemaker is someone who is willing to put their necks on the line, risk a hit, or lose status because they believe in something strongly enough to speak out.
A troublemaker has courage and passion. A troublemaker will push back, question any decision, question your grasp on a situation, question your very values or your sanity, demand better answers, and even foment revolution. When they’ve got the facts sideways or in half-measure, or when they value chaos, domination or revenge, they can cause destruction, woe, and havoc. But let’s be honest: any quality worth having is risky. Every strength is a weakness in some context. We can’t hold that against the troublemaker. Heroes are villains too, when you tell the story from a different perspective.
One of the fundamental lessons I’ve learned about trying to make change, very big or very small, is that indifference is far more difficult to overcome than hostility is. I know many people disagree with me; if you dislike conflict and avoid it wherever possible, indifference must always be preferable to hostile disagreement. But in order to be hostile, you have to care. A lot. If no one cares about what you’e trying to do or change, you have a much tougher task in front of you, and you’re going to be doing it pretty much alone. If someone is fighting you and your work tooth and nail, they have energy, passion, and commitment. All you need to do is change their mind. You need to be absolutely ready to let them change yours.
Like most of us, I have a long history of being wrong. I always start out assuming I understand a situation and know enough to have a perspective I can act on. And then I learn more, and realize I was wrong. Once in a while, I learn something that causes one of my core perspectives, one I’ve built a lifetime of decisions and actions on top of, to come tumbling down. Usually, it hurts. We weave our perspectives into ourselves so tightly that losing one of them is like coming unravelled, and it can seriously sting. But all learning is pain, and when you’re facing it, you can either cover over the hole and pretend nothing’s changed, or let that learning change you.
Troublemakers give me the hope that there’s a moment like that coming. Listening to their perspective unravels when I know and gives me the tools to knit together something more complicated and more true. So as often as they throw a spanner in the works, I think we’d all be poorer, and less, without them.
Here’s to the troublemakers among us. Never stop causing trouble.