Mirror, Mirror

Opinions; we all have them, and for the most part we believe that our opinions are the correct ones. Everyone has a different perspective, a different background, different experiences and different life circumstances that shape what we believe and why. Often there doesn’t even seem to be any rhyme or reason behind what people think, and can be completely contradictory to other opinions they have.

Yet, they are right, and you are wrong.

I have a friend like that who drives me crazy sometimes. He is extremely liberal politically, and is constantly spouting off against conservatives. And not just expressing disagreement, but vehemently attacking them; calling them idiots, bastards, ignorant and selfish. He has very strong opinions about how conservatives are wealthy, oppressive of those who aren’t the same. And that the US Government panders to them and gives unfair tax breaks and incentives, and as a result don’t carry their share of the burden. Okay; that’s his opinion, and I respect it. What I don’t respect however is his aggressive and intolerant way of expressing himself.

But here’s the thing. He also happens to be Gay.

I have absolutely no problem with anyone’s sexuality. Where this figures in is, he demands that everyone accept who he is and how he is. He expects that no matter what background you come from, or what your religion teaches, or however you form an opinion, his own opinion must be approved and tolerated.  He has the right to live as he chooses.  He has the right to be married to his partner.  He has the right to have the same legal standing and entitled to the same benefits as heterosexuals.  And if you don’t give him that right, they you are absolutely wrong.  Period.

Wait, What? What about his tolerance of those who have different political opinions.

And to make it even more irrational, he’s spent his entire life very involved with his Church. He’ll post bible quotes about loving your fellow man, then immediately follow up with one that says this particular politician makes him want to vomit.

Isn’t that a bit hypocritical? Just a bit? Ya think?

Personally, even though my own views and political leanings are different, I believe he has every right to believe what he believes, and to a certain degree express them in any fashion he likes. Where I take offense if how he can demand that he be tolerated but won’t give the same to anyone else. Various people including Voltaire and Evelyn Beatrice Hall have been credited with the quote “I disapprove with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”.

I 100% agree with that.

But it’s a lot more than just political leanings. All too often our opinions and expectations are based on our own perspective. One lesson I had a hard time learning when I was a manager was not to hold my employees to the same standard I held myself. That is totally unfair for a number of reasons. I’m not saying I’m smarter, or a harder worker, or better in any way. I might just have a different skill set, or experience that give me different results. If we were all the same, we wouldn’t need managers at all. Why have leaders when we are all capable of the same outcomes? We should expect the same level of service from a fast food worker as a physician; they both provide a service, right? I can understand how salaries are tied to the level of contribution, why can’t they? It’s a matter of perspective. It’s a matter of experience. It’s a matter of education. It’s a matter of intelligence.

Yes, I said intelligence. Not everybody has the same intellectual abilities. It’s not better or worse, it’s just a fact.

There’s a saying going around on Facebook that points out the need for tolerance. I’m sure I don’t have it exactly right, but I think it captures the idea.

That girl you called a slut in class today. She’s a virgin. The “gay boy” you punched in the hall today committed suicide a few minutes ago. The boy you called poor. He has to work every night to support his family. That girl you pushed down the other day. She’s already being abused at home. That girl you called fat. …She’s starving herself. The old man you made fun of cause of the ugly scars. He fought for our country. The boy you made fun of for crying. His mother is dying. You think you know them. Guess what? You don’t!

Isn’t that the truth? Who are we to judge anyone?

I’m Bipolar. I go to great lengths to keep that hidden away from everyone except a few very close friends. Why is that? For starters, unless you have lived through the horrors of a severe depression you cannot possibly understand the utter hopelessness. You might sympathize, but you can never empathize. I don’t know how many times I’ve been told during a mania to ‘quit driving like a maniac’, ‘just calm down’ or ‘why do you have to be like that”. Well, I’m manic, and in the grips of an episode I can’t control my actions. And that’s something you can never understand.   Even from person to person each experience is going to be unique. Everybody has their own pain threshold; their own reactions to circumstances; their own history; and their own level of illness. Not right or wrong; just unique.

But even that’s not it. Not really.

It truly isn’t important to me whether others can truly appreciate my being bipolar. What is important is that I am acknowledged and accepted. There is unquestionably a stigma surrounding mental illness (not just bipolar) that creates intolerance and fear. Some of it is a lack of education. Society can dictate what is or is not acceptable. It might even be personal experience, that crazy relative or friend that was so out of control. Regardless of the reason, my illness is my own secret.

I don’t want to be judged.

We all have opinions, and we all should. The world would be a very boring place if everybody thought and behaved the same way. And I’m sure I’m guilty of some of this myself.  Is it fair that I am so intolerance of intolerance? Don’t I demand that my condition is just as accepted as others? What I hope, what I strive for is my own patience with those who may not see things the same way. I want to learn to live with others, even with their hypocrisy and prejudice. Honestly it’s not just unrealistic, it’s truly impossible to think that the world can learn to get along. But when I look at myself in the mirror, I want to see a man who at least tries to get along.

A man I can be proud of.

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