Have you ever changed your mind about something?
Think back… (if you’ll indulge me)… to the person you were 10 or 20 years ago – and the beliefs you held back then. Are you exactly the same person? Do you have exactly the same outlook on life? Exactly the same religious beliefs? Exactly the same political beliefs?
Have you not… grown… evolved… or changed your mind, since then?
Are there not things that you believed-to-be-true (then)… that you don’t believe-to-be-true now?
I am assuming that most people who read this post will agree that… in some way or another… they’ve changed their minds about something over the past number of years.
- Maybe you don’t believe that The System and the rat race is all that it’s cracked up to be (whereas before, you were an ardent defender of capitalism)…
- Maybe you’ve been contemplating some uneasy thoughts about climate change…
- Maybe you’re questioning debt and consumerism…
- Perhaps you’ve been seriously doubting the outcomes of traditional schooling – something that you’d never have done 15 years ago…
- Maybe you’ve been pondering on some pesky scriptures in the Bible that never bugged you before (but now they do)…
- Maybe you have a close friend or relative who has recently come out of the closet – and you’ve been questioning how you feel about homosexuality. Maybe – a few years ago – you were completely anti-gay in your beliefs… but now… well, you’re not so sure…
- Perhaps your politics is shifting too. Maybe your stance on war has changed… or you’re re-thinking things like the death penalty… or you’re still not entirely sure where you stand on the issue of gun control…
- Or maybe you feel that there’s a God-shaped-hole in your life and you’re seriously considering returning to church…
- Or maybe even your temperament has changed. (When my dad was much younger, he was quick-tempered and intense. It would take just a tiny spark to send him into a red-faced rage. 35 years later… he’s a far more laid-back, mellow guy. He even recently got his first tattoo!) Perhaps you’ve noticed a slow change in your temperament too?
Of course – there are a gazillion examples of different views and stances…
… but my point is… we change.
As life goes on… and as we grow… as we experience more of life… as we see more of the world… as we read more… as we learn more… as we expose ourselves to people different from ourselves… we change.
Mostly – the change is gradual.
Yes – there are occasional epiphanies and light-bulb moments… when – suddenly – we’re exposed to a different thought… or a way of viewing the world that makes complete sense to us and we think: “Wow – I never thought of it that way!”. In instances like that – perspectives can shift pretty quickly.
But mostly… change is a slow, gradual process…
Now – here’s another question:
Has somebody ever FORCED you to change your views?
Has your mind… or your opinion… or your beliefs… ever been changed because some angry, ranting person forced you to shift your views? Has somebody ever managed to argue and bully you out of your beliefs? Has somebody ever managed to shame you into changing your views to fit theirs? Has it ever happened that anger… and rage… and shaming… and has caused you to say to yourself:
“Oh gee. They must be right. I am totally wrong. Therefore – I shall now change my mind and see the world in the same way that they do!”
Well – me neither.
Nobody ever changed my mind *for* me. I changed my *own* mind. Nobody ever forced me to believe differently. The change came… at it’s own pace (the pace was snail-pace slow for my views on religion and politics… but the pace was pretty quick for my views on education, among other things). There were countless *reasons* why I changed my mind and my beliefs. Never ONE reason… never ONE person. But nobody ever changed my mind FOR me. And certainly not by means of angry rants and shaming.
I am seeing so much anger… and hearing so much ranting and raging out there in the world.
It seems to me… that people out there… really seem to believe that they can somehow shame others into change.
Take the gay-marriage debate, for instance. On both sides of the belief-system fence… you have people fighting, arguing, shaming, ridiculing, hurling insults… and everyone seems to be saying:
“I am RIGHT and YOU are WRONG!”
“WE are RIGHT… and YOU are WRONG!”
Do you think that anyone’s mind is being changed by all this hating, fighting, name-calling, ridiculing and arguing?
Are the religious people suddenly going to say: “Omigosh! Those liberals are SO right – and we are hopelessly wrong and deluded! They have shown us the error of our ways. Thankfully, our minds are now changed – and from this moment on – we are changing our stance and will be completely accepting of the rights of gay people to marry who they choose from this moment on!”
And… from the opposite perspective… will all of the Bible-verse-quoting and the threats of hellfire and brimstone… change the minds, hearts and beliefs of those who are either gay – or who support a gay person’s right to marry?
And – if we’re all clear that this ugliness WON’T change the minds of somebody else… then why do we do it?
What are we possibly hoping to achieve with the shaming and the name-calling?
And, let me make a quick distinction here:
There is a big difference between making our beliefs known (as a way to say: “This is where I stand on this issue, folk”)… and the other thing: “This is where I stand on this issue. I am RIGHT about this. You are all WRONG. And not only are you wrong, but you’re stupid and deluded and you need to catch a wake up!”
I *get* that folk want to be heard and make their position clear on issues that they feel are important.
That’s why I *get* the rainbow Facebook profile-photo-thing. For many people (myself included) it was simply a way to say to our friends and family who are gay (and I have many)… “We celebrate this milestone with you”… but, more importantly than that, for me… it was also a way of making it known that I am a *safe* friend (and for some of my gay friends who have endured some terrible judgement and persecution – it is a big deal to know who can be trusted to love and accept them – exactly as they are).
One of my gay friends expressed it this way:
“What may seem like a gimmicky rainbow wash over a profile picture is actually a message to some closeted, suicidal person who is struggling with sexual identity that you are a safe place for them to just *be*. It’s a flag waving outside of your digital front door saying that they can come inside and talk to you without fear. Respect to everyone nailing their colours to the wall around the world”
ALL of my friends (regardless of their religious beliefs, political beliefs or sexual orientation) are welcome in my home without judgement. I wanted my gay friends and family to know that they are unconditionally accepted in my home and in my life.
But… hear me…
I also *get* why a number of Christian friends and family posted their stance too. Somebody posted a Facebook meme: “Share if you believe that marriage should only be between a man and a woman” (obviously those who resonated with that message shared… and those of us who didn’t… didn’t). Somebody else posted a photo of himself and his wife colouring rainbow butterflies… and the words: “The only rainbows you’re going to see on our profile pictures today are these ones”.
Okay – I *get* that too.
My Christian friends had just as much of a right to state their opinion on the matter and to make their position clear. We all want to be heard – and I don’t think it’s helpful to silence people.
I might not agree with their opinion… but… okay? So??
Do I delete every Christian Facebook friend and family member?? (I have many of those too!)…
Do I post all sorts of ranty I’m-gonna-prove-you-all-wrong articles on their Facebook walls? Do I throw *my* scriptures and Bible verses around too? Do I ridicule their beliefs? Do I hurl insults?
I do not. And I will not.
Firstly – because I just think that all this fighting, ridiculing and shaming is hurtful… and accomplishing absolutely nothing (except for even more divisiveness in the world already depressingly divided).
Secondly… I do NOT believe that I can *force* somebody to change their mind… on ANY issue (and especially not when it comes to a person’s deep, personal beliefs).
In fact, I think it’s impossible. And when we attempt to force – or shame – people into changing their mind… all it does is cause hurt, anger and heartache… and make matters so much worse.
I’m not in the business of amplifying hate.
As a quick disclaimer… I need you to know that there ARE times when my tolerance runs out. If people post deliberate hate-filled vitriol on my Facebook wall (any kind of vile, racist comment or “God hates fags” comment)… then yes, they are hastily jettisoned from my friends list. Stuff like that actually makes me feel physically ill.
But I DO think there is a significant difference between “This is *my* position” posts – and (the sadly more common): “You are all deluded and wrong, wrong, WRONG!” posts. The former is a personal statement of belief. The latter is an attempt to control and shame everyone who doesn’t believe the same way.
I have changed – in so many ways – over the past 10 to 15 years. To coin a phrase by Joan Didion, “I have already lost touch with a couple of the people I used to be”…
For the most part, I view these changes in a positive light.
I have changed my views on spirituality (I used to be an extremely dogmatic Christian – but I’m now somewhat of a romantic agnostic). That could also change (and probably will). Speak to me in another 10 years and I’ll let you know.
I have changed my political views (there was a time when I aligned with conservative politics… now I align closer with liberal – if not libertarian views – tinged with a hint of occasional anarchy). As with everything – this could ALSO change… speak to me in 10 years’ time, and I’ll let you know.
I have changed my views on traditional schooling. There was a time when I was vehemently anti-homeschooling. Now – I not only home-school my kidlets – but lean more towards a very informal, relaxed kind of home-education known as unschooling. The *me* of then… would not have recognised the *me* of now.
I have even changed my views of ME (I no longer hate myself… if that gives you some idea).
There are – of course – many other examples that I could share of how (and why) I changed…
But – mostly – I keep these stories close and don’t share too many of them on a public forum like this blog (and especially those to do with religion and politics).
Here’s why I don’t post about my religious or political beliefs on this blog:
- Well, firstly – it’s not that kind of blog. There’s loads of blogs out there that discuss religious and political beliefs. This isn’t one of them.
- Our beliefs are such a personal part of being human – and I never want anyone to feel that I am promoting *MY* beliefs as “The Truth” or “The-RIGHT-Way-to-Do-Life”… (or that everyone else is *wrong*). I just don’t see the world through those kinds of dualistic lenses. It’s not the way I’m designed.
- I have zero interest in attempting to evangelise people in the hope that they become more like *moi*...
- I remain a constantly changing and evolving living creature. Therefore, it doesn’t really make sense to me to carve my beliefs into stone. They’re probably going to change and shift in a couple of years anyway.
- And lastly – as a Lover of Diversity – I would never want blog followers to feel unwelcome, ridiculed or judged in this space – based purely on the fact that we might hold a different set of religious or political beliefs.
A final thought:
I have a born-again-Christian mother (in full-time ministry) and an atheist-activist sister. None of us share the same religious or political beliefs…in fact, I’m not sure if it’s possible that you could find 3 more different people.
But… all three of us manage to love each-other unconditionally – in spite of our differences. And hey… maybe in a couple years’ time – Mom will feel differently about gay marriage (or maybe not)… and maybe – in a couple years’ time, Suzanne will be attending a spiritualist bootcamp (or maybe not)… and maybe – in a couple years’ time, I’ll be back on the worship team at a Christian church… or I’ll be a Buddhist… (or maybe not)…
The point is – we change.
Can we not extend some grace towards our fellow human beings as we change, grow and navigate the world together?
I’ll end with this quote (I’m not sure who said these words, but I resonate!!):
“Be an encourager. The world already has enough critics”