germ provides one definition of the noun “threat” as “a declaration of an intention or determination to inflict punishment, injury, etc.” A verbal threat may indicate a physical conflict on the rise due to a clash in conviction, a dramatic debacle, or an inherited hate. Often, for the warned victim, these verbal threats translate to rational fears which may provoke the fight or flight response out of instinct.

On the contrary, when physical safety is not a factor and common conversation is introduced, harmless comments may become rendered as threats, like darts aimed at a filled balloon pinned to the wall. Hidden behind misconstrued words, the darts fall in attempt to pop the balloon as well as to pop the emotional limits of the person processing the words said to him in an ultimate attempt to make him seem lowly. Or, maybe he processes the comments said to him incorrectly and makes them out to be a threat when they are simply just words filling up space in the air. In such case, is he wrong for thinking a threat exists?

Everyday I conjure up threats that I believe to be out to find fault in me. Similar to fight or flight, it becomes instinct to verbally protect myself from any potential harm. While trying to filter what is a threat and what is not, everything becomes a dig in some way or another. Constructive criticism evolves into destructive discussion while the loss of the possibility of fruits gained depletes.

I often hear: “What about changing this, K.J.?” “Instead of this, try doing this.” “Maybe don’t say that.” These common sentences are largely meant to provide me with different perspectives. Perhaps a peer is informing me on how to make my draft transform into a final essay or my sister is adding to my progressing macaroni recipe. Immediately, I want to argue, to prove myself, to defend what I know and what I think to be true. What I refuse to accept by arguing is my humanness. I am not a perfect being, and the people who extend their helpful hints to me aren’t either; so, I have no right to belittle others’ opinions for the sake of saving mine.

As a person, I will never grow by always believing I am right. I will never grow by defending every little debate to the point where my own emotional balloon is popped. I will never grow by being quick to pop others’ emotional balloons. Dick Cavett wisely said, “It’s a rare person who wants to hear what he doesn’t want to hear.” This may seem like a paradox, but when we open our ears and calmly take advice we otherwise would dismiss, we inevitably allow ourselves to grow as a person — a rare trait according to Cavett.

Create your own narrow definition of threat. Take the advice of others independent of who they are. Create flowering conversation opposed to debates. Grow and allow others to grow, too. Never forget that you’re an imperfect human. Keep your head up always. Be rare by opening your ears at all times and, most of all, in the end, don’t let anyone compromise your individuality .

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