The times, they are a’challenging. And it’s only getting more difficult as the middle ground shrinks beneath us and people’s opinions become more polarized by hot-button issues. When it’s nearly impossible to wade in the shallows for fear of drowning in ridicule should we say something unpopular, maybe now is exactly the time to jump in the deep end.
These days, you either believe in science, or you don’t. You either support Black lives, or you don’t. You either cut your sandwiches diagonally or you don’t (which is wrong, by the way). Whether or not you’re a “flat earther,” there will be moments when you have to speak your mind, and how you respond could possibly set in stone how those closest to you perceive you.
There are two choices in the coming moments: Go with the flow to avoid persecution from a crowd you don’t agree with. Or. Say the unpopular thing you know is right. But are you man enough to say it, even if you know it’s right?
Want our advice? Good, we’re going to give it to you anyway. Rather than speaking your mind, go with your gut. Speaking your mind might influence what your heart knows is true.
For instance, let’s say you’re at a family gathering — you remember those — and someone you’ve known your whole life, someone you’ve respected, is upset because a priest they’ve never met is being suspended for speaking out against Black Lives Matter by the diocese’s bishop. Not only are they upset but also sending out emails to convince you and others close to you that it’s imperative to send protest letters to said bishop, urging him to retract his punishment for the priest’s right to freedom of speech.
So there’s that (we apologize if that hits too close to home, but it’s happening in a lot of homes right now).
Before we go peer-pressuring you into doing the right thing, we want to be very clear that having a different set of opinions is perfectly acceptable up to a certain point. And understanding how people arrive at their opinions is also key to being empathetic.
With that said, let’s quickly resolve. We understand the right to freedom of speech, but this scenario does not warrant compliance in the least because that freedom of speech evokes hatred that leads to the discrimination of a group of people, one that is part of a historic, systematic prejudice that has let generations of people down and held them down. There’s something to be said about understanding your own opinions. Semantics are meaningless if anyone or thing is being abused.
Sorry, that needed to be said. Now, where were we?
In the past, you might have kept your lips sealed when sexist jokes, misogyny and various forms of bigotry were thrown around, assuming ‘Hey, these people have been around longer than me, I’m just a kid, what do I know?’ or any narrative that reinforces that these opinions don’t reflect who these people truly are. But perception is reality — sorry to say — and the times aren’t just a’changing; they’ve done changed.
What’s right is right, and what’s wrong is becoming clearer with every passing day. If you’ve been associated with ideas and beliefs you don’t want to be associated with, it’s not too late to put some distance between them. Maybe your parents forced certain beliefs on you, your friends taught you how to bully to avoid being bullied yourself or your creepy uncle made you think someone is less than because of how they appear on the outside by showing you the inside centerfold of a magazine he keeps in the garage.
As small groups begin to reconvene and conversations ramp up over the next few months, we implore you to sit back in the pocket and let others voice their opinions all the live-long day while you find your place in the mix. Soak it in, get some perspective on what others have been through. From peaceful protests and pandemic responses to election leaders and misleaders, not to mention the delicate art of living the American dream when every day is a nonstop morning mess or night terror on repeat, there’s going to be a myriad of talks to sit in on, many of which will not have a middle ground.
By that logic, there no longer is a space in which you can please everybody. So find some peace in that.
All you can do is trust your gut, listen to your heart and speak softly without ridicule in your voice. Educate yourself on the reasons for your opinions. With that, chips will fall where they may, but you will have been your best self, and people will know where you stand. You’ll disagree, you may argue, and you could even watch someone you love walk out the door, and that’s hard but it’s OK. If you’re on the right side of things and come from a place of sincerity, they’ll be back someday. Don’t shut the door just yet.
We have to challenge ourselves daily. Don’t let people gang up and push their beliefs onto you. You know who you are, you know what’s right in your bones. When someone you know speaks racistly, no matter how calmly and confidently it comes out, don’t be afraid to say the unpopular thing. Odds are everyone else in the room knows it, too, and they’ll appreciate you had the sack to speak up.
Take it from us: Going with the flow isn’t always the way to go.
Now all I have to do is take my own advice and respond with the confidence I’ve had here with you. That’s my #ManEnough challenge for to myself this week. What’s yours? How will you speak up? We’d love to hear about it.
Stay strong and good luck.
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