Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Time for a Change

I love it when people have opinions, thoughts and beliefs that are different from mine. I enjoy being able to have healthy conversations that explore the world around us while exchanging views, ideas and beliefs. Unfortunately, so many people are not interested in the conversation, they are interested in being right, having the one right view, the one right belief and have no interest in exploring, growing or even entertaining the thought that maybe, just maybe, there is a different reality out there they know nothing about.

I see it all day, every day. There are times when there is nothing I can do about it, except take full control and accountability for my actions and words and try to not get bogged down in the mire of negativity, anger and hatred. There are other times when I do have the choice to do something. I am careful about what I watch on TV or what movies I see. I’ve noticed that if I take in too much violence, anger and hatred on TV, it affects my mood and my reactions. I have learned that, for me at least, what I consume sets the stage for how I react both externally and internally.

Which brings me to Facebook. I know there is a lot going on the world today and I know a lot of people, including myself, have some very strong opinions about issues. From Obama to Caitlyn Jenner to unemployment, healthcare, terrorism, the environment and the list goes on, we all have opinions. Many of those things are things we don’t understand and historically, we humans don’t like what we don’t understand. And too often, we don’t want to understand what we don’t understand. It is easier to hate it, to push for its destruction.  

On a daily basis, I see so much anger, hatred and disrespect on Facebook and I have noticed it really affects my mood and how I act during the day. One thing I love about my life is that I know people from all different places and all sorts of life experiences. I really enjoy when a conversation is started that facilitates learning. I am working with a group right now to help them start a business and we spend a few minutes of each class talking about race, talking about things that most people can’t or won’t talk about. It’s wonderful to have a real conversation, with no anger, no finger pointing, no blame or guilt, just an open exchange of ideas and experiences. I have learned a lot from those types of moments.

While I love the differing opinions of people and I truly believe that we should all be able to express what we think and believe and question what we don’t understand, I do not believe the “I’m right, you’re wrong” blaming type of dialogue that lacks any type of respect or empathy is ever appropriate. Tell me your opinions and respect mine. When people take the “my way or the highway” approach, it does nothing but build walls, create division and further the gap between people of differing minds.

I decided this morning that I am not going to accept it any longer in places where I have a choice. Facebook is one of those places. To anyone I am friends with on Facebook, I value your opinion. I value and respect your beliefs even when I disagree or don’t understand them. They are what make us individuals. I do not, however, want to see hatred and disrespect. I don’t want to see things that have been posted just to anger or belittle other people. There is enough of that out there in the world and I am making the choice to keep it as out of my life wherever possible.

Instead of getting angry or dwelling on a comment or post that is meant to do nothing more than spread the misery, I will no longer respond to it beyond blocking and un-friending. I get angry too. I get scared at times. There are many things I don’t like or understand. I do understand I have a choice. I have a choice and I choose for respect and dignity of others.

I invite others to do the same. Think about what you write. Think about who it might affect. Think about a person who may be struggling with something. It may be the person next to you. The person you think you know best that you perhaps don’t know as well as you think you do. Think about what your child or best friend might be going through and then think about that thing your want to post on Facebook. As an uncle and soon to be dad, I think about what I am passing on, what example I am setting. I know I fall short and that is part of being human. I don’t strive to be right, I strive to learn, to be authentic and live in a place of integrity. To me, that means taking responsibility for my actions and words.

It is possible to have an opinion and to hold true to your beliefs and values without losing respect for others.