Consider these situations:
1. You're fourteen years old, and your mother just adopted a new dog. In an attempt to help you and the dog become friends, she puts his crate in your bedroom. Do you:
A. Fall asleep with a big smile on your face.
B. Spend half the night trying to come up with a name for your new canine companion.
C. Become so upset that you can't even sleep.
2. Your older sister and her husband bring your niece and nephew over for your parents to baby-sit; they're taking a trip to Busch Gardens, but don't want to spend all their time on the "kiddie" rides. They come over, drop their kids off, and leave before you know it. What do you think to yourself?
A. "Why couldn't they have brought me along?"
B. "Oh, well; maybe some other time."
C. "Whew! Boy, am I glad they didn't ask me to come along!"
3. One of your favorite singers is doing a local concert. You enter into a contest to win tickets, but end up losing. What do you do?
A. See if your parents will take you anyway.
B. Ask your local Facebook friends if they'll attend it with you.
C. Realize it's not that big of a deal; said singer has no idea who you are, and wouldn't even remember you if she met you, so, you'll stick to listening to her on your iPod.
Most of you probably answered A or B to all of those questions, right? Well, those stories aren't just hypothetical; they really happened to me, and, in every case, my response was C. To most people, though, that would sound odd: Who wouldn't want a new dog? Why would someone be glad to not go to Busch Gardens? What kind of reason is that to not see one of your favorite singers in concert? That's just it, though; I'm not them, and my preferences are usually contrary to popular opinion.
Conventional advice says that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, right? Well, you wouldn't know it from some of the people I've unfortunately known. One former friend once said to me, "You are very rigid about your opinions, and it seems that if one does not agree with you, they are persecuting you, or just wrong." That's not even close to being true; in recent years, I've known people whose opinions were totally contrary to mine...but I just let it go, because their opinion wasn't going to affect me. There are times when it does smack of persecution, but only in these cases:
- Is the person's opinion preventing me from doing what I want or need to do?
- Is the person's opinion based on "facts" which he/she thinks are true, but I know they're not?
- Is the person even understanding what I am saying?
- Is the person refusing to keep their mouth shut about their opinion?
There lies the rub, however: If someone is going to be my friend, he/she must be respectful of my opinions. Think of it this way: How would you like it if you had a so-called friend who criticized your life decisions--i.e., "You shouldn't have married _________!", "Why did you take a job in ______?", or, "Why aren't you into ______? Everyone else is!"--every chance he/she got? Wouldn't that drive you crazy, and make you want to literally unfriend that person after a while? Well, I can't stand it when people say the same things about anything I choose to do, from working at a library to bargain hunting to watching the Disney Channel. If someone chooses to spend their time doing something else, that's their choice; I don't mind if someone says, "I'm not a fan of ______", or, "I watched ______, but I couldn't get into it." What I mind is if someone says, "You shouldn't be watching ______," or, "You're into ________? That's stupid!" That right there smacks of harassment; instead of expressing their opinion of a show, book series, or hobby, they're insulting me.
In conclusion, I will say this: A longtime friend recently told me, "You assume Christian maturity in all Christians." Actually, what I expect is maturity from not only all Christians, but people in general. It's true that most of the people I interact with frequently are Christians; I attend church three times a week, and even a few of my co-workers have told me of their Christian beliefs. Still, I do have friends who call themselves agnostics, "modern heathens," or, in one case, a solipsist. Why do I expect maturity from everyone? Simply put, the majority of people I am in contact with are around my age--that is, well into their twenties--or older, and the time for immature, childish behavior is past. Unfortunately, as many of us are well aware, immaturity is rampant in today's society; too often, adults--of all ages, I should add--act like they're in middle school. It does no good to tell them that, though; when my high school Physics teacher--who had previously taught eighth grade science--accused her class of acting like middle schoolers, a friend who was part of that class was rather upset, and he probably wasn't the only one. What makes it even worse is that it seems that those who admit to not being Christians oftentimes are more mature than those who profess Jesus as their Lord and Savior. It's as Jesus said in Matthew 21:31c: "Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you." It shouldn't be that way, but it is.