For most of us, from childhood we were told to blend into the world around us, but in reality we should let our differences define who we are. Growing up, others around me always had quirks or attributes that were different from my own that, to me, were “weird.” Over the last few years I came to the realization that being weird is normal, and it’s being normal that is truly weird. Like snowflakes, we are all different in our own unique ways, developed over time as a result of our individual experiences. These events not only shape the minute details, but also have an impact on our beliefs, our values, our perceptions, and who we are as people.
When I was younger, I often had preconceived notions of others based off of the way that they presented themselves; if their behavior or views differed from my own, I would almost automatically devalue the conversation. Luckily, over time I have grown to understand the value of others’ beliefs and have started appreciating alternative ways of thinking. A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend the State Officer Summit in Washington D.C. With nearly 300 officers from around the country in attendance, I had expected there to be an array of diverse but accepting individuals; however, during one of the small group sessions I was quickly proven wrong. When asked to share our opinion on an array of corporations and organizations, the group was quick to label entities like the American Humane Society and PETA as “wrong,” “stupid,” and “ignorant.” Upon receiving the opportunity, I reminded the group that the individuals who supported and ran these organizations, like us, believe passionately in what they are advocating for and that we do not hold the right to belittle their beliefs for the sole fact that our experiences differed from theirs. We constantly find ourselves in similar situations, where others viewpoints aren’t aligned with our own, and it is important to realize that just because we don’t hold the belief, it isn’t inherently wrong.
Each and every day we interact with countless individuals that are different from us. As we have those interactions and live out our lives it is important to maintain harmony and accept others for who they are. After all, like us, the numerous experiences they have had have shaped their beliefs, which in turn determines how they view the world.