When I was first learning to talk I would often struggle and stuttered over words beginning with “W.” I also had insatiable curiosity and was constantly asking questions, following people around and peppering them with a barrage of “W-w-w-what are you doing?” “W-where are you going?” “W-w-w-why does that look like that?” Thankfully my speech has improved since then, but my desire to understand the world around me has not.
From my experience as a homeschooler, the cultural identity of the homeschool community is very homogenous. Almost everyone around me was anti-government, pro-life, believed that evolution was contrary to everything Christian, and the best clothes were found at thrift-stores or made yourself. For the longest time I checked all of the homeschool boxes, believing the same thing as everyone else. My views and identity were defined by only one group of voices and I had an imbalanced perspective. But then I went to college.
At first I held strong to the perspectives I valued in high school and, I’m ashamed to say it, judged people who believed differently from me. I saw their views and actions as wrong and didn’t see room for another perspective. Then I started to talk with them and actually listen to their perspective and my views began to change. One thing you have to know about me is that I hate being wrong. My perfectionism combined with an extremely competitive nature meant that I never wanted to feel the embarrassment caused by making an incorrect decision, and my boundless curiosity meant I wanted to understand everything. This is probably not a healthy way to go through life, but that is how my brain works.
It is easy to always hold the “right” belief when everyone around you tells you what is right and you never hear another perspective, but in college you are surrounded by people who all think they have the right answer and all have a completely different answer from you. I began to investigate my own beliefs more to make sure they really were “right” and the more I looked the more I found so many of my closely held beliefs were faulty in many ways. It’s amazing how much more intelligent the “other side” is when you actually listen to them instead of only looking to the twisted versions of their views. The first significant change I noticed was my view of racism in the U.S. For years I bought into the traditional view that everyone has an equal chance, affirmative action is discriminatory, and white privilege is complete B.S. Then I took a class on multicultural education (for an Elementary Ed. degree that I would eventually abandon) and began to see the societal barriers in place for minority groups. I also became good friends with people who had experienced racism and discrimination first hand. Since then, I have interrogated many of my views and shifted my understanding of the world.
Although this interrogation has led to significant changes in many facets of my worldview, the transition has not been easy. There is a reason so many people go through their life believing the same thing, it is hard to struggle with the complexities of the world. It creates an extreme sense of self-doubt when you realize that a belief you held your entire life is false and, in my case at least, it makes it hard to commit to a perspective. It can be especially troubling when it relates to my faith. Many of the actions I thought were morally wrong growing up, no longer seem wrong to me after studying the subject further. If those beliefs are wrong, how many more of them are wrong as well? How can I trust when spiritual leaders tell me that the Bible says one thing when other leaders have been wrong in the past? How can we know anything is right?
I think embracing the shades of grey in life, and recognizing that others who disagree with you are not automatically wrong, is important. However, it is also important to not let this prevent you from holding any belief. Although I am afraid of being crippled by my indecision, I will continue to explore the world around and ask “why?” about everything I see in the hopes that some “right” answers will become apparent to me.