Intolerance for differing opinions and beliefs will get us nowhere

Zara DeGroot

From a young age, we were encouraged to fight for what we believe in and for what we thought to be right. We were told to hold onto what is good in the world and fight for that, like what Martin Luther King Jr. did. As we have gotten older, the desire to fight for our beliefs have stayed with us. For many of us, that’s all we want to do. We are all about fighting for people’s rights and social justice.

I am all for fighting for people. The direction that the world is going in is proof that the fight for goodness is still prevalent and important. But, contrary to popular opinion, I see a problem with this obsession with always wanting to be ready to engage in an argument for our cause.

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The problem is that no one agrees on anything anymore, and further, we are failing to agree to disagree.

What is considered “truth” is convoluted — what one group of people think is the ideal lifestyle offends another group, and vice versa. Thus, everyone feels the need to fight to the end for their ultimate truth. In the end, however, everyone is defensive and offended, and the results come with some level of negativity toward someone or some group.

Though there are countless issues that deserve attention in our culture and our world, there comes a time when we need to lay our guards down and do some self-reflecting. And that time is now, when our world has recently been shaken by instances of futile violence, taking innocent lives and instilling grief in those left behind.

But, these recent events serve as a good reminder to us — people are people, and people are important.

In our polarizing culture, it is easy to classify individuals based on what group they identify with — whether that be religious, political or social justice groups. Differing opinions cloud out the one similarity we all share — our humanity.

It is so easy to discredit someone because they have a different opinion than you. I know people who would dispute this, but from my experience, this has been the case, and I also find myself doing it. We have gotten into the habit of intentionally butting heads with those we see as our “opposition,” and we don’t easily see a problem with our behavior. But it goes further than recognizing a clash of opinions. It becomes a fight between groups of people, and what follows is a slew of pointing fingers and trying to prove our point by disproving someone else’s. 

What I find to be ironic is that the majority of social, political and religious groups have the underlying message of love and acceptance. And funnier yet, the most offensive things that have even been said to me about my beliefs are from people who are actively fighting for their own beliefs. There are extremes to everything, and sometimes intention gets crowded out by presentation. But at the core of many of us, we seek the betterment of the world.  

This is why I believe that we need to remind ourselves to put our differences aside because we are all people and we are all hurting. If we want to affect change, we need to realize how to put our guards down, lend a listening ear to people regardless of their social, religious or political stance and fight together for the common good of everyone.

Pierre Bayle was a French philosopher and writer from the 17th century. In regards to the effort of living peacefully, he said, “It is thus tolerance that is the source of peace, and intolerance that is the source of disorder and squabbling.” 

I’m sick and tired of classifying people by what group they are a part of. At the end of the day, we are all people and we all speak the universal language of love. If you are deviating from that, it’s time you do some self-reflecting and strengthen your priorities. There is already too much hatred in circulation, and if we are all at odds with one another because of minor issues that we decide to see as major problems, we won’t be able to make a difference. It takes a village, and in this case, the village is the entire world.

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If you have an ounce of love and goodness in you, it is your responsibility to spread that. Darkness, negativity and hatred never win. And sometimes it is okay to fight for love, peace and people without getting wrapped up in the rhetoric of it all. Pierre Bayle is right — being intolerable of one another will get us nowhere. 

Collegian columnist Zara DeGroot can be reached at letters@collegian.com, or on Twitter @zar_degroot