I guess you could say I’m pretty edgy. I have a leather jacket, sometimes lick peanut butter off the knife and one time I almost got a facial piercing.

But I wasn’t always this rebellious. Oh no, there was a period wherein I was, if you can believe it, pretty straight edge. Did my civic duty as a small town inhabitant, stayed quiet, kept my nose clean. My curfew was self-imposed for “before dark,” despite the fact that my parents insisted I could (should?) stay out longer. I participated for a few years of Scouting, and got a pretty respectable amount of badges: selling cookies, setting up tents, learning about the virtues of chastity.

You know, the regular stuff.

I had a personal code that I adhered to, and not even my closest, coolest friends could persuade me to bend those rules. One of those rules was that I definitely did not drink. As a hockey player in a boring town attending a public school, my sober statute was an anomaly.

For the better part of high school, Monday chatter in the hallways would surround how drunk everyone had gotten at the party on Friday and/or Saturday. I would usually be sitting on the floor in front of my locker, skimming through The Globe or talking with a classmate about last night’s homework. Some days I would be going through a math problem with a dry erase marker on my locker (I was totally that kid).

I kept my mouth shut and smiling face to my party-happy schoolmates, nodding and laughing at the appropriate moments. But once my fellow nerds and I were left to our own devices, faces of amusement turned to scorn. We criticized their binge drinking, their drug use and their parents’ negligence. We used self-assured tones and condescending language. Standing on our moral high ground, I felt a sense of superiority.

What an asshole.

The superiority was totally fabricated by conflating my personal decisions with the moral ideal; being secure in my own choices went hand-in-hand with putting down those of others. And not only that, but broadcasting my distain to people I knew would agree.

Having an opinion, no matter how secure you are in it, does not mean dismissing others’. It doesn’t invalidate your opinion if you accept those of others, open-minded and without judgement. As long as a person is respecting themselves and those around them, their other decisions are really just tangential. Dismissing the choices of others, talking about them condescendingly, feeling better about yourself because you made certain different choices, doesn’t make you a confident, secure person. It makes you disrespectful.

I’m not saying that you can’t talk about your opinions - this section wouldn’t exist without you doing just that – but don’t do it to put down others or lift yourself up. Do it because you’re passionate about something, because you enjoy a healthy, respectful debate, because talking things through helps clear things up in your mind.

Do it because your opinions matter to you, and are part of who you are.

And I would hope that who you are is not an asshole.

 

        @samwisegodfrey

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