I think as Americans we have been so consumed with the idea that we are free that we assume we are free to keep those freedoms away from the people we disagree with or don’t like. We think that we are free to express our opinions in a way that belittles, badgers, and disrespects other people. We think we are free to withhold the same freedoms we have from people that don’t fit our ideal of who an American is. And sure, there are going to be people that use their American freedom in ways that we disapprove of, and there will be opinions that we disagree with…but even though we are free, we are still responsible.
We are responsible for our opinions, our actions, and how we handle them. We are responsible for how we treat other people.
Though expressing all things may be lawful, it may not always be beneficial or expressed in a healthy way. With freedom of speech comes a huge responsibility, and we too often neglect to acknowledge that. I am free to post this blog expressing what I really think about the nation of people that I am a part of; you are free to respond with exactly the way you feel. This country is unique in that way; we can be honest about what we think and feel, and that is a really good thing! Really!
But, my fellow Americans, many of us need to stop and realize that the WAY in which we express ourselves isn’t fair or even right. You can completely disagree with someone and not attack them personally. You can hate someone’s ideas and not hate that person. Sometimes I think we confuse a person’s opinions with their utter identity, and it’s true that a person’s opinions are a part of them…but opinions aren’t an identity. I don’t have to agree with you to care about your well-being as a person. I don’t have to even like your personality! I can still be kind to you. Just because I disagree with a lot of what you say doesn’t mean I have to think less of you or even like you any less…we are a nation of unique thinkers! I think we have forgotten that. We don't have to agree with a person in order to respect their right to have an opinion.
And, friends, let’s not judge entire groups of people based on the actions of a few. Personally, I’m white…and Lord knows I don’t want to be known by the actions of all white people. There are some terrible white people in this world. There are some terrible black people and some terrible Middle Eastern people too. There have been truly horrific things in every single culture in this world…that doesn’t mean that every person in this world is to be held responsible for the things that people of their race or culture have done.
Let's know and care for people based on who they are…imperfect, flawed, sometimes incorrect human beings… NOT based on their culture or on what people in their culture have done. Let's care about them as human beings, not as walking opinions that we disagree with. Let's use our freedom for love and not for hatred. Let's protect the freedom of our fellow Americans by respecting them as people even when disagreeing with what they say.
Friends, belittling and hating isn’t helpful. It doesn’t get your point across. It doesn’t change anyone’s opinion to agree with yours. So what are you accomplishing by doing that? Remember that another person's opinion isn't necessarily an attack on you personally. Stop being offended by every little thing and start living in freedom…and allow others the same privilege.
And in case you’re wondering, even if you disagree with this blog or you spew your opinions rudely or belittle others…I’ll still care about you. It might be difficult to remember sometimes, but you aren’t your opinions or mistakes. You are an individual worthy of love and it’s okay if I don’t agree with you. It’s okay if you don’t agree with me. Let’s still be allies. Let's still be free to respect each other. Offended? No need to be. Disagree? That's fine! Let's talk. And if we still disagree, well that's okay too. We can agree to disagree and keep on keepin' on.