Some people worship money, others sex, and still others don’t quite know who or what they worship…but they hold onto a hope that there’s something out there bigger than themselves. I personally worship God. And sometimes dark chocolate and Diet Coke (God knows I’m working on that).
And lately there are those people who worship something else entirely, which I fear is becoming something of a pandemic in its own way. This ‘thing’ is not only acceptable for people to worship, it’s valued…praised by the masses, even. Which means, more and more people are jumping in, taking that first bite, trying it on for size. It’s almost like this ‘thing’ is producing a cult, and it’s easy to see why. It’s addicting, rewarding and disguised as goodness. What is this thing I speak of?
Blinded by Bias
I’ve seen it spread so fast in the past year, especially on the online realm, that sometimes it makes me ill to witness. I am guilty of getting sucked into the virtual cultural wars on occasion, but lately it doesn’t take long for me to log off. I think ultimately I see the behavior for what it is: self-serving, and I see it for what it’s not: helpful or productive.
Not everyone can “live and let live.” I get it. Many people feel very strongly about vocalizing their truth. And everyone has a right to, just like I’m doing now. If we feel passionately about something, it only makes sense that we want to share our knowledge and opinions with others.
The problem is that humans become blinded by their own biases. It is helpful and often necessary to speak up when you’re angry; I do believe there are countless issues that need to be brought to the world’s attention, and there is a place for strong and fearless leaders to raise their voices in an effort to push for radical change.
But it can be a slippery slope, something of a double-edged sword. On the other side of those fiery passions that one might feel entitled to speak on? It’s called nuance, AKA the grey areas that may not be fully considered. Feelings aren’t just “feelings” after all…it’s never that simple. Our values, beliefs and opinions stem from a whole gamut of complicated factors. Whether they be the result of a strict religious upbringing, a traumatic experience, cultural traditions passed down through generations, fear, pressure to conform, a gut feeling, lack of trust…or many of the above, all of these influences hold great weight in who a person becomes and how they view the world.
Take a topic such as the Covid vaccine, simply because of its relevance in today’s world. Even if person A shouts from her rooftops that the vaccine is safe and effective, and that anyone who chooses not to get one is crazy and selfish, Person B can just as well shove the “logic” back in A’s face and say, “Sorry, but I’m still not getting it. I don’t feel good about it.” Who is right in this situation? Well, it depends on how YOU personally feel about the Covid vaccine, right?
The dangerous mentality that is sweeping across social media and other platforms is that “there can be no other way besides mine.” By shouting from their metaphorical rooftops (aka typing on their social pages) with the motive of gathering the herd and canceling or silencing the few who may not identify with their line of thinking, these self righteous instigators may very well believe they are simply doing their job as good citizens. What I believe is really happening, though, is that they’re diminishing the layers that exist within all of us. This in turn does nothing but create more polarization. And we all know the world is NOT black and white. Why are so many people insistent on making it so?!
“If You’re Not With Us, You’re Against Us”
I think I can name a few reasons. I think people who worship self-righteousness feel like they have a purpose, like they’re contributing something valuable to a world that seems to be crumbling before our eyes. Not to mention, it’s “trendy” to call people out. People get sucked into this “trend” when they know it will gain traction and therefore offer them a bigger following. And when this “following” offers the instigator further support, the cycle perpetuates and lends itself to cancel culture, or to an “us against them” mentality. It feels thrilling for all involved. Like a cult…a dangerous new religion.
“If you’re not with us, you’re against us.” Have you heard that phrase thrown around at all in the past year? If you have, you too are witness to this new religion, one that removes nuance and reduces humans to robotic-type creatures only capable of viewing the world THIS way or THAT way. (By the way, I am fully aware that actual religion as we know it operates in much the same way—making things seem black and white. This is why lately I feel very strongly in approaching religion cautiously, curiously, and sometimes, critically. That, I suppose, is a post for another day).
Being an emotionally intelligent critical thinker means that one should walk through life in a neutral and curious way. If you meet someone who claims to have all the answers, run. Look, it’s great to have convictions, but not at the expense of downplaying someone’s story. After all, do we really value policies, traditions and systems over our own humanity?
It seems these days we all have opinions on subjects that we have no experience with. Let us not forget that ‘truth’ is relative: it’s only as ‘true’ as the unique lens with which we view the world. An intelligent person willingly admits they know very little, even as their knowledge on world issues expands and broadens. And they know that scared people hold tight; they cling. Because fear keeps us from listening to others, from having hard conversations, from being willing to hear a story that might alter or even deplete the views we thought we’d never leave behind. That can be a wildly scary thought for some, even me.
It’s OK to Not Know
Don’t worship self-righteousness. Don’t be that person who forgets how extremely complicated the human race is. We are walking contradictions, painfully paradoxical and well, if we’re being really honest, pretty damn confused. I actually think it’s low key sexy when someone admits that they know nothing. I mean, how often do we hear that?! It’s like people are so afraid to admit that they don’t have the answers.
I’m here to tell you that it’s ok to NOT have an opinion, to NOT know a whole lot, and to admit that you’re living life on your terms… just an imperfect and clueless human trying to accept all the other imperfect clueless humans who surround you. There’s a lot less pressure in that approach. It doesn’t make you “weak”—it makes you HUMAN. And relatable, let’s be honest.
As you finish reading and go your own way, remember these simple principles:
1. NOTHING is black and white; life is not that simple and humans definitely aren’t.
2. Your truth is only as true as the unique lens with which you view the world. Consider where and how you were raised; those are huge factors in your outlook on the world.
3. A big supportive social media following can be a catalyst for self-righteousness. What if that following suddenly disappeared and turned on you? Would you still hold firm in the beliefs you shout?
4. Removing the grey areas in our thinking is devaluing our very humanity. I don’t want to be a robot, do you?
5. When we aren’t willing to empathize with someone’s story or see another side of an issue, we are removing any chance for growth and clinging to beliefs that may very well be rooted in fear.
6. ‘Call-out/cancel culture’ is teaching future generations to handle disagreements in one way: conform to majority way of thinking and eliminate the minority; it’s the fastest and easiest way to “remove the threat.”
Last but not least, if we must worship anything, let it be nuance. At least that will offer us a greater chance to come together and really SEE each other. That should be the ultimate goal of the human race.
You might also enjoy How I Found Peace In Humbling Myself