Here's a true story from my 7th grade life. I was working on a report -- I think for English, but maybe history, and I wanted to open with a good quote. I love opening with a good quote. Back in junior high, I also liked to end my papers with a good quote. I was pretty much a one-trick pony.
Anyway, I can't even remember what the paper was about any more, but I do remember that I had found a good quote to open it: Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall. I thought it was a really good quote and it must have supported whatever I was writing about, but when I sat down with my English teacher for a check-in with my rough draft he said, "You don't want to use that quote." And I immediately asked, "Why not? I thought it was really good and it supports what I am saying."
Teacher: "It is a quote by Confucius."
Me: "I know. I credited him, see. Right there."
Teacher: "Confucius was not a believer."
Teacher: "He wasn't a Christian." This is the part where he stared at me with raised eyebrows.
Me: "Do I have to have a quote from the Bible? I don't understand."
Teacher: "You don't have to have a quote from the Bible. I bet you could find one. But you shouldn't use a quote from someone who is an aethist or buddhist or humanist. They don't think like we do."
Me: (I never knew when to hold my tongue - not then and not now): "You don't think there is glory when someone rises up in difficult circumstances?"
Teacher: "Look . . ."
Me: "You said they don't think like us, but I think this."
At the time I felt really guilty about the entire conversation, and at my own thought process. I felt horrible that I found myself aligned in my thinking with someone who was a HUMANIST!!! What did that say about me? Did I need to re-repent? Would they have to hold a special prayer service for me? I was young, impressionable, and had attended private Christians schools my whole life. Later, I would have a similiar experience of shame and confusion when a teacher saw I was reading Mediatations by Marcus Aurelius. "Oh, be careful reading that." I was warned. "Not all the ideas in it are like ours."
I am older now, and, some would argue, corrupted by the World. If you didn't grow up in a Christian world, you should know that the World is bad. We were taught to separate ourselves and make sure that we neither become enticed by or corrupted by The World.
I understand the concept, and even understand that it is based in Scripture ("Do not be conformed by the world" and "Be in this world but not of it.") I also understand that many of my teachers were acting in good faith and in good conscience - protecting me from dangerous thinking that might lead to heartache.
Yet, Marcus Aurelius and Confucius both have some really good stuff to say. And have you read Ghandi? Just the other day, I read a quote by a rapper: Hustle until the haters ask if you're hiring. I mean it sounds pretty lame, but if you dig deeper -- it expresses and incredible truth: You have to keep going and keep moving forward regardless of what the world around you says. All innovators and successful people have been told they are crazy or that their ideas or dumb, but they just keep going -- they kept hustlin'.
I am a person of faith. It is part of who I am, but I do not believe that means that I must isolate myself; cutting myself off from any thoughts other than those stamped and approved by KLOVE. I belive that there are so many people out there doing good work, loving their neighbors as themselves, and not all of them have the same faith that I do.
I have been thinking a lot about listening - listening to people who don't agree with me; listening to people who think about things differently than I do. When the movie Lincoln came out, everyone was talking about the book it was based on Team of Rivals. I read it. Actually, I had read it before the movie came out, but that's neither here nor there. The point is that Lincoln intentionally included opposing views in his inner cabinet. He wanted to hear from people who thought differently than him. Now, I don't think Lincoln is the second Messiah or anything, but he was known for being a wise and temperate man. And the idea of having people close to you who say, "Um, Nope. I don't think so," seems like a good idea -- IF you can listen.
I never want to be the type of person who simply dismisses others completely because they don't think like I do. It is a struggle sometimes for an opinionated, know-it-all like me, but I want to be open to hear what others have to say. It isn't just a personality quirk that drives me to do this - it is embedded in my faith which teaches that all people matter and have value.
There is kindness and wisdom all around you. You just have to be willing to listen.