It seems like every third word I write these days is about the importance of masks. This has clearly become an obsession, and I need professional help to break it.

With a mask strapped to my head in the daytime and a CPAP at night, perhaps it’s no wonder I’m fanatical about obstructive face wear. Or maybe since masks are one of the only proven tools we have to try to protect our staff and residents from a deadly pandemic, I feel called to be an outspoken zealot for the cause. 

I recognize they’re not foolproof, of course. Like seatbelts and birth control, masks aren’t 100% effective. But we go to war with the army we have, so I’ll probably keep preaching.

Thankfully, masks aren’t directly the topic this time. Instead, I’m wondering how best to personally deal with people who fervently oppose them. 

Many times a day, I’m negatively triggered by the torrent of anti-mask sentiment flooding social media, including frustrating tirades by people I consider intelligent and friends. My blood pressure spikes, and soon I’m tearing out what little of my hair remains. 

The most temporarily gratifying response is to take it personally and leap angrily into the debate. But since arguments like these are tearing both me and the nation apart, a less destructive strategy for handling disagreement could come in mighty handy. 

I’m no licensed therapist or life coach, so I looked to the ancient Stoics for advice and wasn’t disappointed: Simply practice integrity, patience, curiosity and humility. 

Marcus Aurelius, my favorite Roman emperor, covered the first two. “The only thing that isn’t worthless: to live this life out truthfully and rightly. And be patient with those who don’t,”  the second century CE ruler said. 

“It is impossible to learn what we think we already know,” added Epictetus. In other words, stay endlessly curious and humble — and conclude every interaction with an honest disclaimer: I could be wrong.