Our generation often strives to fit into the norm. We seem to have a need to be accepted by a certain social group and to fit into a general persona. This desire often causes us to be very cautious with sharing our beliefs, values and ideas. We fear that if we speak out against what our friends or peers believe, they may criticize and judge us. This, to me, is not only a tragedy, but also quite ironic.
We claim to value individualism but criticize others when they act upon it. I believe if our generation, as a whole, valued others’ opinions as we value our own and listened to others with open minds, our society would improve significantly.
We experience conflict in politics, race, religion, economics and social matters. We have been conditioned to take sides when it comes to these matters, often to one extreme or the other. You are a Republican or a Democrat. You are a Christian or you are an athiest. The list could go on. So, when it comes to discussing these matters with peers, we often side with the majority so we do not experience conflict. Being on middle ground is usually not an option, and if our belief is not that of the group, we find ourselves struggling to explain our opinions to people who do not care to listen and will stand against us either way. We fear not being accepted and being outcast from the group with whom we have identified. So we say nothing. We put our beliefs and opinions to the back of our minds and just accept the majority’s views as true.
This is sad to me. It is sad that our generation is not open to others’ viewpoints and ideas, and that we often make others feel small because of what they believe. An individual should not ignore what they consider an injustice or wrong-doing just because they are scared of being ridiculed by fellow students and friends. They should not believe that their voice does not matter, just because their peers do not feel the same. We do not all come from the same place; we have different experiences and have grown up with different values. That should not make us keep quiet or think our opinions do not matter, because they do.
As JFK once said, “…the wave of the future is not the conquest of the world by a single dogmatic creed, but the liberation of the diverse energies of free nations and free men.”
The tendency of our generation to criticize others’ opinions and ideas is quite ironic. Does the media not encourage individuality? Are we not told over and over again that each person is different, and that no one has the same experiences as another? Although differences are promoted, they are only accepted if they fit into certain criteria. The values and opinions of an individual must fit between the lines that society has set. That, to me, does not fit any definition of individuality. We should not be ashamed and ignore our beliefs just because it does not fit with the current trends of social ideas.
So I urge you, fellow students and friends, to open your mind and listen to others’ ideas, values and opinions with the intent to understand rather than criticize. So many wonderful ideas are hidden behind fear. The world is constantly changing, so we should not run from new opinions, but rather learn from them. Seek out peers who may not fit into the same social group, engage in conversation someone with whom you have not spoken. Discuss world problems, politics, religion, recent social matters, sports or anything that may grab your interest, but do so kindly.
Do not approach opposite opinions with a bias toward your own, but with a true purpose to listen and see the other side of things. Who knows, perhaps they may shine a light on concepts you would have never thought of before; they may help you solve a problem that you could not find the answer to on your own.
Others’ opinions are important. Others’ beliefs do matter. The world does not benefit by only catering to one group, but by embracing differences. So share your ideas. Share what you believe could be a solution to world problems. Share what you hold as true. But do all this with an open mind to your peers’ beliefs. The world is full of beautiful, wonderful ideas, so embrace them, learn from them. Do not conform to the norm. Strive to be different.
By Ashlynn Morton, Staff Writer