I have been thinking long and hard about this post and how I can put my thoughts into words without offending any of my sweet readers. I will do everything possible to avoid doing so, but I also have to be honest, and this has been on my mind for a long time.
I have always disliked being around extremely opinionated people because I feel like they often speak without considering how their opinions may make someone else feel. I don’t necessarily have anything wrong with the opinions themselves, actually, even when they differ from my own. After all, we are all entitled to our own opinions. Just because I think someone’s opinion is completely wrong and not based in any actual logic, that does not make me think differently about the person themselves.
- …That person insinuates or directly states that those of a differing opinion are stupid
- …That person says something completely offensive, racist, or cruel while expressing their opinion.
- …That person questions the faith of those of a differing opinion
- …Or that person otherwise judges those of a differing opinion unfairly solely because of their beliefs.
While I believe that we are all free to believe what we wish (after all, God is the only one allowed to judge, and it’s His opinion of us with which we should ultimately be concerned), I also believe that belittling others or their own beliefs is not okay.
In my position as a teacher, I try to avoid discussing politics with my students or colleagues. Granted, there are a few who know my political affiliation and fewer still who know of some of my stances on major issues, but those are the few who know me well and who do not let those issues determine their relationships with others. First and foremost, I know that I hold an influential position in my students’ lives. I would never want to use that position to try to push any sort of political agenda on them. Second, I am well aware that there are people in this world who judge others for their political views, and I would never want one of my students (or one of my colleagues) to view me in a different light because of assumptions they have made about me as a result of my political affiliation or because of opinions I have expressed. My opinions and my political affiliation do not make me who I am. My compassion for others, love of books, obsession with my family, addiction to Pinterest, and burning desire to be the best person I can be are just a few of the things that DO make me who I am. Period.
So, what’s my point? Sunday will make exactly one month of a Facebook free lifestyle for me. While I had originally planned on getting back on Facebook after Christmas vacation was over, I delayed that plan indefinitely for a lot of reasons. Most importantly, life without Facebook has been pretty good. My children (sadly, I will admit this, and it never should have been an issue…) receive a lot more of my attention, as does my husband (and housework). And to be honest, I don’t feel like I’m missing out on much. However, there are a couple of people I DO miss keeping tabs on, so I have considered reactivating from time to time. So why haven’t I?
Right now, that answer is simple: gun control.
When the Presidential election was taking place, some of my friends made implications (and sometimes directly stated) that Republicans were stupid. I also read that Democrats are without souls. Once upon a time, someone remarked that no Democrat could call himself or herself a Christian. In some posts, Barack Obama was likened to Jesus. In others, racism was evident or he was referred to as the Anti-Christ. Before the Presidential election, Chick-Fil-A filled my newsfeed, and jabs were thrown on both sides. This was not true of all my friends, but sometimes I had to ask myself if people who posted these things on Facebook stopped to think about what they were saying about those friends of theirs who felt differently. Did they realize they were calling THEM stupid, without souls, or un-Christian-like?
Some of my friends have directly insulted me via Facebook in the last few years without ever knowing that they did so because they simply didn’t stop to ponder how their posts could make others feel. At one point, a friend of mine told me that Facebook was a place to voice your opinions and that the right to free speech means they can voice those opinions freely. I’m not going to argue that point, but I just wonder sometimes…where is the line between those rights and human decency, and when is it okay to cross that line? More importantly, is it EVER okay to cross that line?
On December 14th, 27 people in Newtown, Massachusetts lost their lives. I have heard tidbits of conversations about a conspiracy theory about the shootings and that the people involved were simply actors, but frankly, I try to tune those conversations out. Has our country really reached a point where we question the murders of 20 sweet little babies and 7 adults? Have we really reached a point where we question the grief of those parents who will never get to tuck their precious children in bed again…or kiss away boo boos…or tell them they love them? Have we really reached a point where we believe that our leaders would allow us to feel such deep anguish over the loss of lives involved and fear about going to our jobs each day in order to promote a political agenda? Why have we become a country in which such cynicism is no longer shocking? Or, to get back to my original point, why have we become a country in which it’s okay to directly insult others in the name of free speech and politics?
Right now, the biggest issue in politics seems to be gun control. I know how I feel about gun control, and trust me, I have pretty strong feelings about the issue itself. However, I respect the opinions of others on the matter, even when those opinions are uninformed. I would never insult others who have different opinions, nor would I believe for even a moment that by attacking their belief system, I could get them to change that belief system to fall in line with mine. And while I am not trying to put myself above anyone else, I would never judge someone based on their system of beliefs or decide to remove them from my life as a result of those beliefs. So…I’m staying off Facebook. I’m removing myself from a situation in which most of the discussions presented to me are geared toward attacking someone else’s beliefs, including my own and those different from my own. And while I know that makes me sound a bit hypocritical—I am, after all, voicing my opinion that I’m avoiding those who voice their opinions, albeit harshly, and I may seem slightly as though I’m judging those who do so—perhaps what I should really say is that I respect the rights of others to voice their opinions, but I don’t want to be in a situation where those opinions could cross that line I was talking about earlier.
Sure, there are other, bigger reasons I am staying off Facebook, and I am in no way, shape, or form judging someone else’s decision to use Facebook. For me, Facebook was an addiction, and at this point in my life, getting back on Facebook would be like an alcoholic who has only been sober for a month saying, “I’ll just have one drink.” I’m just not ready yet. But I would be lying if I said that I miss sometimes feeling attacked or insulted by my friends.
At one point during the election, I had friends who posted that if I didn’t like their posts, I should feel free to delete them (they were speaking generally, of course…not to me directly). I had others who voiced their sadness that political issues could tear apart friendships. The way I feel about those who are close to me is not affected by their political or religious views; however, the way I feel about those who are close to me IS affected if those same people insult me in their Facebook posts. If those same people knew my political affiliation, whether I support gay marriage/gun control/abortion/prayer in schools/etc. or not, or who I voted for in an election, would those people insult me to my face? Would they tell me I’m an idiot and don’t want anything to do with me? Would they question my belief in God or my love for my children? If they wouldn’t, then why do they feel doing so is okay via ambiguous (or direct) posts on Facebook about those who disagree with their own beliefs? Furthermore, if they would say those things to my face…Why? Why have we allowed being RIGHT to become more important than connecting in meaningful ways with other human beings…or loving one another…or trying to make a difference?
So, why did I decide to finally write this post? What made me brave enough to post it? While you may have read this and not thought twice about it, writing something like this is completely unlike me. I try to avoid offending others or saying things that could ever be taken remotely the wrong way by anyone…but one of my students changed that for me this week.
For her blog, she posted about her relationship with God and how she needs to rely completely upon that relationship. I know that she had been working on the post for quite some time. She kept writing, revising, and saving it as a draft…but she never posted it. Finally, she did it. She put her heart out there for everyone else to read, criticize, and judge.
If she can be that brave about something that has been weighing on her heart, then so can I.