Do you feel comfortable sharing your thoughts, or do you censor them, hoping to avoid offending others?
For years I held many opinions inside, worried that if I expressed how I felt, others would disagree or perhaps think I’m strange. Life seemed easier if I blended in as opposed to speaking up. But in doing so, I stifled my voice. And when we continuously suppress our words and/or actions, we often find we aren’t so sure who we are or what we believe.
Perhaps you’ve felt that way too, especially during the past several years. After all, many who stepped out of the lane of “what is acceptable thinking” were ostracized. I suppose that’s why people danced around issues, either walking a middle-ground or refraining from honestly speaking their truth.
However, when we constantly squash our beliefs to fit in, we begin to lose our uniqueness, often feeling a compulsion to become cookie cutter versions of others. I’m not suggesting we shout our deepest, most controversial opinions from the nearest mountain top. Rarely does that end well. But we should feel safe expressing ourselves without fear of censorship or being excluded by others.
What if people felt comfortable to share what is right for them without demanding it to be right for others? Is it possible to honor our beliefs while respecting another’s differing views? Must we always agree, or is it OK to hold our own perspectives?
In a culture that supports diversity, why do we resist respecting diversity of thought? Group think has become the norm, suggesting one side’s right and the other’s wrong. Could we disregard the pressure to judge and instead respect individuals’ beliefs? Is it possible to accept that friends, family, acquaintances, and strangers hold truths different to ours? After all, isn’t it their right to do so?
Recently, while with close friends, a sensitive topic came up. I was the only one at the table who held a particular belief … everyone else strongly disagreed with my stance. But here is the beautiful thing … instead of them telling me I was wrong or me suggesting their views were incorrect, questions were asked, and discussion followed. I totally respected their standpoint, and I believe they got where I was coming from. It doesn’t mean any of us budged in our position. But maybe we began to understand an opposing philosophy better because we took the time to listen to one another.
When we stop insisting others agree with our beliefs, walls of separation blur. Rather than categorizing people as right or wrong, we witness them as individuals with their own perspectives. Because until we’ve walked in another’s shoes, we cannot grasp why someone thinks or behaves as they do. The same is true for us. No one truly knows our experiences, upbringing, and influences … the pieces that shape our opinions.
Our world’s heating up … quickly. I’m concerned this upcoming election could be even more divisive than the last. The media is certainly doing its part to make it so. But its more than politics … there’s endless turmoil at a global level. Blame, accusations, and fear flood newspapers’ headlines, social media’s feed, and news channels. It’s as though there’s no hope for a better tomorrow.
When we feel caught up in this ongoing drama, remember one thing … we can think for ourselves. We do not need to agree with anyone. And we don’t have to label everything as good/bad or right/wrong. Instead, we can become curious and explore various sources of information. This allows us to ask questions and ultimately form our own opinions. It’s really that simple.
We hold the power regarding how we express ourselves as well as how we react to others who think differently. We can stay small, insisting we are right, and “they” are wrong. Or we can pause and ponder opposing views. This does not mean we alter our beliefs. However, if we consider the reasons behind someone’s words or actions, we begin to understand why they think as they do. This is the first step to accepting another’s point of view.
The next time you find yourself in a debate with a family member of close friend, ask yourself if proving your point really matters. Do their beliefs change who they are at their core? If you weren’t aware of these opinions, would you see them any differently? Then why would your view of this person suddenly shift just because they didn’t follow your line of thinking? We are better than our ego selves who claim they must be right, imposing judgment on those with opposing views.
Besides, how boring would it be if we all thought the same things? Our world needs chocolate, strawberry, vanilla, and butter pecan ice cream and ideas. Diversity of opinion exposes us to new ideas, makes us think, helps us define where we stand, and grants us an opportunity to express freely.
When we are true to ourselves while allowing others to do the same, we diminish the division among us. And that is how we create a diverse, yet harmonious world, where people feel free to share their thoughts without fear of discrimination.