Have you pondered the difference between assertiveness and aggressiveness? The comparison came to mind yesterday while I waited in a que to pay for gasoline. The radio was playing that old Frank Sinatra song, “My Way”. It’s one of the very few numbers from his late period that I really love. Even though he didn’t author the song, Sinatra performed it as if he had.
…”I’ve loved, I’ve laughed, and cried,
I’ve had my fail, my share of losing.
And now, as tears subside,
I find it all so amusing.
To think I did all that,
And may I say, not in a shy way.
Oh no, oh no, not me
I did it my way.”…
(composed by: Paul Anka/Jacques Reveaux/Claude François)
Sinatra’s biographers have mentioned his great impact upon popular music and culture. In spite of some controversial and questionable aspects of his career, Frank Sinatra was held in high esteem by his many fans. I’ve always thought of Sinatra as a positive embodiment of masculinity and assertiveness. His actions were his own, but didn’t intentionally tread on other people’s rights.
Sinatra’s song differs from today’s popular meme, “my way or the highway”. This second notion can certainly be an expression of aggression. The “my way or the highway” phrase is confrontational, self-centered, and often expresses hostility. The phrase makes me think of someone who has a big chip on his shoulder. It’s certainly a product of the “Me Generation”.
The “My Way” of Sinatra depicts a way of doing things with a degree of finesse, classiness, and self-reflection. Meantime, the “My way or the highway” phrase comes off as gruff and angry.
Today’s world seems to be filled with “my way or the highway” thinking and behavior but not so much of Sinatra’s type of assertiveness. I don’t say this as a rant, it’s only a personal observation. We live in a culture that regards etiquette and respect for others as weakness or passivity. Of course, courtesy and compassion are really the hallmarks of strength.
In my opinion, a truly strong person, man or woman, feels unthreatened by differences in others. Strong people are assertive and not aggressive, because aggressiveness betrays an inner weakness of character. Assertive folks are happy to own their personal share of life. Aggressive people aim to take more than their share. Truly successful people have learned to know this difference and to live accordingly.
There’s a contemporary, pop-psychology movement that encourages us to live our lives our own way. I like this mode of thinking. I think society benefits from new, original ideas. As I mentioned yesterday, innovation is the stuff of progress. However, we need to remember that innovation can either happen for the good of society or the detriment of mankind. What do we intend to do with our lives and what we innovate?
There’s a somewhat deceptive Internet meme that pushes the notion of doing whatever we please, regardless of what other people may think. This is a welcome notion for those of us who have long worried about other people’s opinions of us. Unfortunately, it’s also validation for those who act like a bull in a china shop, to continue their aggressive behavior. We do need to consider society’s norms to a certain extent. We are free to think and do as we please. Do our actions go beyond “pushing the envelope” regarding the rights of others? Or, does our innovative behavior expand our joy of living without abridging the rights of others?
I’m glad Frank Sinatra recorded “My Way”. It affirms my right to live life the way I see fit. The song also reminds me that “classiness” is integral to living that good life.
The Blue Jay of Happiness likes Sinatra’s reflection on his life. “I would like to be remembered as a man who had a wonderful time living life, a man who had good friends, fine family. And I don’t think I could ask for anything more than that, actually.”