Being Right Doesn’t Mean Everyone Else is Wrong

Good morning! I hope your day is off to a great start.

It occurred to me a few days ago that, while my posts have gotten more personal over the past couple of weeks, they’ve also gotten a little more somber. I enjoy sharing that personal side, and I think most of you enjoy the connection as well. But the whole purpose of these posts is to illustrate that, no matter what’s going on in life, there’s always something to give us hope of a brighter future.

That said, there are times when our best efforts to remain positive seem to be under constant assault from people we may not even know. All you have to do is turn on the news, and it’s an endless barrage of negativity. Whether it’s crime in the streets or political transgressions, the worst in human behavior is right there on full display.

Of course, when it comes to politics, we all have our own opinions and those opinions sometimes drive us to show a side of ourselves that we would normally keep in check. It’s hard to listen to opinions against a strongly held belief without responding in kind. Turn on social media and you’ll see everything from civil discussion to outright hostility. All from people who claim to love their country.

Well, let’s just get this out in the open. A country isn’t one political party or one side of an issue. It’s not one race or one religion. It’s not one occupation, one state, one county, or one neighborhood. And it’s not one set of values trampling everything else in its way. It’s millions of people, each with their own heritage and values, living and working together toward a common good. Period.

One of our most sacred rights in this nation is the right of free speech. But what we’re allowed to say in a strictly legal sense isn’t always what we should say in a more human sense. We learned that as children, the first time we shared a particularly objectionable opinion with our parents. That’s when we learned the meaning of respect. It’s not always what we say, but how we say it.

An opinion that doesn’t make any sense to us personally may make perfect sense to somebody else. If it’s a point of well-known fact, like the sun rises in the east and sets in the west (or that the world is indeed round), there’s little to dispute. Opinions, on the other hand, may be based on facts, but they are nothing more than our assessment of how those facts fit within our own set of values.

That’s why two people can read the same transcript or watch the same news report and come away with a completely different perspective on what was said. It’s not that we saw or heard anything inherently different – it’s what we went into that situation hoping to hear. We all have our beliefs, and nobody likes to be wrong. So, we focus on any shred of evidence that supports those beliefs.

Years ago, a first-grade teacher took a class full of energetic, loving children, and turned them into two warring factions in a single day by suggesting one “fact” – that blue-eyed people are better and smarter than brown-eyed people. Within minutes, best friends were at odds with one another simply because of the color of their eyes. Smiles turned to tears, and before long the shoving began.

Thankfully, she monitored the situation and corrected her erroneous “fact” in time to prevent bloody noses. But it taught those kids a lesson I hope they never forgot. It made me wish we’d all had somebody like that teacher. Because maybe we’d have grown up realizing that differences make us stronger, and just because somebody doesn’t think like us, that doesn’t make them inherently stupid.

I avoid political discussions in my writing for obvious reasons. I have my values, and you have yours. Some of us will agree wholeheartedly, and some will just as strongly disagree. And that’s okay. There are nations where the people are only exposed to one side of a religious or political doctrine. And we describe those nations with words like “iron curtain”, “dictatorship”, and “brain-washed.”

We strengthen our mind, not by closing it to contrary opinions, but by opening it to other points of view. When we consider facts and opinions that challenge our beliefs instead of blindly supporting them, we begin to evolve. We may still come out on the other end fully believing whatever we did at the start, but at least we’ll be able to better explain why we feel the way we do.

And that explanation of our beliefs is much more valuable in the form of silent reflection rather than open debate. You may draw somebody else to your point of view, but odds are you’ll only drive the wedge in deeper. Cooperation turns to animosity, and the battle begins. All because somebody else dared to have eyes of a different color.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

Love For Your Country Begins With Love For One Another

Good morning! I hope your day is off to a great start.

Today is July 4th. Across most of the world, it’s simply the day after July 3rd. But here in the United States, it’s a day of celebration. On this day in 1776 a group of men gathered in Philadelphia to sign the Declaration of Independence, and a new nation was born. It was an act of bravery. It was an act of defiance. And it was an act of hope. It was the realization of a dream – a land of their own.

It was also an act that marked the escalation of a war already in progress. Over the next seven years, as many as 113,000 soldiers and sailors on both sides would lose their life, either through combat or as the result of infection, starvation, or disease. To each of them, it was a fight worth winning.

Today is the day we honor those brave patriots. We raise flags, have cookouts, and watch fireworks at the end of the day. Some will attend parades, and others will have to work just like any other day. But even then, it’s with an air of celebration and hope. Because not only do we celebrate our independence, today we celebrate our future.

Patriotism means different things to different people. Webster’s Dictionary defines the word as “love for or devotion to one’s country.” That’s pretty simple. And in the very next sentence, an example of the word in usage, it reads, “Although poles apart ideologically, they are both unashamed of their patriotism.” Read that again, and let it sink in. It’s important.

What makes a nation great is not a population of citizens blindly marching to the same beat. It’s people from all walks of life, with different beliefs and values, with an ancestry tied to nations around the globe, from all races and religious backgrounds, united by a single common thread – love for their country.

Are there people in your family who don’t share your values? Are there close friends whose choices don’t always meet with your approval? You may disagree from time to time, quietly or openly. You may even argue. But at the end of the day, do you still love that person regardless of those differences? Of course, you do.

Love for one another doesn’t mean we always agree. It doesn’t even mean we respect their opinion. It simply means we respect their right to have an opinion, and to express it as peacefully (or forcefully) as we express our own. And sometimes, that means quietly accepting defeat when they make a stronger case or win the battle at hand.

But it’s hard to accept defeat, to admit we may have been wrong, or that others are entitled to their opinion as well. Just as we want what’s best for our children, we want what’s best for our country. And all that really means is we want what we think is best for our country, based on our own values and convictions. But that’s not patriotism. It’s idealism. And the two can be very easily confused.

Civil debate is a healthy thing – asking questions and considering an opposing point of view. It’s how we grow as individuals and as a nation. And sometimes that means questioning, or even openly disagreeing, with the actions taken by those elected to represent us. It’s not unpatriotic to disagree with your leaders as long as your intent is to effect positive change.

Yet, we live in a time where opinions run strong and civil discourse often escalates into heated debate. Spend ten minutes reading some of the political chats on social media and you’ll see some of the worst possible behavior by people who claim to be patriotically and morally superior to those with whom they disagree. That’s not civil debate. It’s a verbal free-for-all that nobody ever wins.

As our nation celebrates its independence today, there will be some who prefer a quiet day with family, and others who want all the pomp and circumstance of a day filled with parades and fireworks. Some will silently protest, and others will celebrate like it’s … well, the fourth of July.

We won’t always agree with everybody around us. We may not even agree with those closest to us. And we will certainly have opinions about those who establish policies that impact the way we live. That’s not only okay, it’s good. It’s healthy, and it’s what democracy is all about. It’s what makes a nation great – people willing to challenge the status quo in search of something better.

If we’d never challenged the notion of picking up a rock to move it, we may never have discovered the simplicity of the wheel. Stagnation occurs in a closed body of water. It also occurs in a closed mind. In order to grow, we must open our hearts and minds to other ideas. When we can do that in a spirit of compassion and cooperation, there’s no limit to what we can achieve.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved