Tuesday, January 14, 2014

"What Do You Think?" Well, Does It Really Matter?

When I was younger, I considered myself a rebel.  I don't mean someone who flagrantly breaks laws or defies rules; anyone who knows me knows that never has been my style.  What I mean is: I was someone who did what I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it, and didn't really care what anyone else had to say about it.  In fact, there were some cases where people saying that I shouldn't do whatever made me all the more inclined to do it, usually because that person was either a middle school bully or just as immature and mouthy as you'd expect one to be.  I had my favorite shows, video games, books, movies, celebrities, etc., and I displayed them on my binder regardless of what anyone else had to say about them.  I also wasn't one for social events; though I rarely missed church and/or related events--and, if I did, it was almost always because of something that couldn't be helped, such as sickness or not being able to find a ride--I knew that friends of mine were doing activities with other friends...but it didn't bother me in the slightest.  In fact, it seemed to cause more problems when I didn't want to attend an activity than when I did; in 2004, I had an altercation with the associate minister/youth leader at my church at the time only because everybody--not only him and the other "sponsors", but all of the other members of the group--wanted me to attend a beach outing.  When I tried to politely refuse, all they did was refute my reasoning, and the leader and I had a discussion about it afterwards that did little more than make me realize that I was better off staying home and watching Lizzie McGuire instead.  I didn't seem to mind very much that I didn't have others--that is, other than immediate family members--to join me on my usual activities; I had fun and enjoyed what I did, regardless.

In recent times, that seems to have changed.  Instead of doing what I think/know is right, I ask anyone who will listen, "What do you think I should do?" Since I have a wide range of friends--male and female, younger and older, Christian and non-religious, liberal and conservative, etc.--it's to be expected that I would get a broad range of responses.  While one group of friends might tell me not to do something, another group might say, "No; go ahead and do it!", which only leads to indecisiveness; I can't take both parties' advice! It's one thing to ask for help from someone more knowledgeable about some topic--parenting, technology, etc.--but to know what to do and still ask every friend or acquaintance you can about which course of action to take doesn't help anybody.

So, what's to be done? I think the answer is simple; instead of going around asking people what course of action to take, I should just go back to my old ways and do what I know is best, regardless of what whoever or whatever--other than God and my parents, that is--has to say about it.  Of course I'm going to have my naysayers; who doesn't? Still, as long as I'm not violating Biblical commandments or flagrantly disobeying my parents, who's to say I'm wrong?

I want to make three things very clear.  (Yes, I know; the whole "three points" is a usual sermon thing, but, hey...I was raised in the church!) First off: Regardless of how strong my preferences are, they are not to apply to anyone else.  Most if not all of you know what my likes are--family-friendly entertainment, Apple technology, libraries, and the like--and what my dislikes are: sports, pets, theme parks, anything morally offensive, anything to do with large bodies of water, and...well, you know.  In the past, I believed that anything I disliked should be banned from the entire country, if not the entire planet.  I used to say that if the federal government banned sports, it'd be cause for celebration.  So what if there were millions of sports fans worldwide? In my opinion--at the time, anyway--they were all fanatics, and, therefore, sports should be taken away.  Now, I realize that such a belief was wrong for two reasons: Not only do I not have any right to call others "fanatics"--pot and kettle!--but just because one person--anyone, really--doesn't like something doesn't mean that it should be taken away from the millions who do.  If some random person somewhere can't stand the Disney Channel, does that mean that every cable and satellite provider worldwide should remove it from their lineup? Of course not! You people--friends, enemies, random Internet users, whoever--can go do whatever you want, whenever you want; that's not for me to control.  If you want to include me, fine; the only thing I ask is that you don't push it if I politely refuse.

Second off: I do need to keep others' preferences in mind.  Let's face it: We all have at least something--or, maybe, someone--we can't stand.  Regardless of what or who it is, it's something or someone that you probably do your best to avoid.  You probably wouldn't be too happy if said item or person was shoved in your face, right? Well, that's how some people feel about the things I like! As popular as Disney Channel is, I've known people who have said that they hated it.  What's the proper response? Try to convince them of how great the network is? No! What I should do is refrain from talking with them about it, and try to find something else we might have in common.  Sure, I can still talk about it...but with other people.  Thrusting my favorite things into people's faces doesn't really win me any friends.

Lastly: That said, I can't worry about people's opinions when they're flat-out ridiculous.  Some years ago, a friend from church's parents were in town, and they came to church services with her.  That particular Sunday happened to be a "teen takeover," and the sermon was done by a teenaged boy, not a professional preacher.  Despite the kid's best efforts--and, in my opinion, he did a wonderful job--said friend's parents complained to other members of the church for multiple reasons, one being that the sermon didn't include the steps to salvation.  The whole thing caused a bit of a ruckus, and it could have been avoided if my friend's parents had just remained quiet about the matter.  So what if they were used to hearing the steps to salvation in every sermon? If they wanted that, they should have gone to their own church! It was nothing more than personal preference, and I imagine the teens' feelings were hurt by someone who walked in to another church and demanded that it be just like their own.  The moral of the story: Believe it or not, some people have some ridiculous opinions.  Of course, that's subjective, but, seriously...treating Growing Pains reruns as if they're pornography, or "Na nu, na nu!" as if it's a dirty word, is just insane.  (Yes, I did know someone who held such beliefs, and was even more shocked when other people defended that individual for expressing said opinions.) I know I'll never please such people, so, I'll just let them shoot off at the mouth, and keep doing what it is I'm doing.  Those folks are the "middle school bully" kind of people I mentioned earlier; why do I need to listen to them?

In conclusion, I will say this: There are some people who are quick to dispense with their opinions.  I knew a person once who complained to someone else about a boy whose separation anxiety was so bad, he sat with his mother during a ladies' class at church.  Said complainer felt--rather strongly, I should add--that the kid should go to the class for his own age, not be glued to his mother.  However, when I heard that, I immediately had this thought: Regardless of the complainer's opinion, it was not his/her decision to make! His/her complaint was merely a waste of breath, as the person he/she complained to was just as powerless to make a change.  I'm sure you've known people just like that; when they've got an opinion, you know you'll hear it.  However, as my mom has always said, "Opinions are a dime a dozen!" If there's one thing I've learned in my life, it's that people are going to find fault no matter what I do; therefore, why worry about it? If others want to judge me...well, that's on them.

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