We are living in a generation of passionate people. It simultaneously brings me the most hope, and completely terrifies me. Let me explain...
We were brought up with our feelings, ideas, and efforts accepted and encouraged more than any other generation before us. We were made to feel special and validated, and have our voices heard. This has turned us into a powerful era of change-makers that speak up and fight for what we believe in. It has also destroyed our empathy and understanding of others’ opinions.
We grab onto ideas with the amount of fever and fight as revolutionaries, but at times, we are no more than bandwagoners. Now, I am the first to admit that I fall into this category from time to time; there are very few, if any people who are removed from this multi-generational flaw. We develop strong feelings based off of social pressures, biased articles, and corrupt news. We have had more than our fair share of movements in the past decade that have left us on opposing sides fueled by hatred. But have we actually been fighting for some great change? Or just some great stories?
Sometimes we scream when we should seek, we riot when we should reflect. We can be too quick to develop heightened feelings without developing understanding. And yet, we demand respect.
We expect that our voices must be heard and listened to without offering others the same courtesy.
One of the most frustrating things I think a person can encounter is the inability to have someone listen to them - really listen. Opening up a discourse that is deep and revealing can be terrifying. It is opening yourself up to vulnerability. It takes time and trust. When I say discourse, I am talking about a back and forth conversation that is meant to help both sides grow. There does not need to be a “winner”.
Regardless of your level of confidence, everyone hopes that when they voice their opinions, they are met with acceptance, or better, understanding. To some it comes easy. Their passion provides them with a desire to hear what others have to say and to have their own ideas challenged. Then there are the equally important voices of those whose opinions are shared few and far between. The quiet ones on the sidelines who are introspective - sometimes scared to share their words out of fear of others’ judgement, others’ anger, and others’ pain, or simply out of disinterest.
These differences in us are as interesting as they are necessary. The problem exists when either side won’t listen.
We need to create a new movement; beginning with ourselves, and fostering future generations that are not only encouraged to discover their voices, but encourage others to find their own. A world of strong-willed individuals that cannot respect the perspectives of others is the most dangerous thing we can be. It is how we find ourselves where we are today in a world where the word “debate” has the connotation of a brutal battle of yelling, undermining and belittling.
We need to be open to real discussion. The kind where whether in agreement, or on opposing sides, all participants are open to understanding each other's views, and further developing their own. Not duels where we stand so strong in preconceived notions that there is no room for growth.
The change we need is built upon basic human abilities. In its simplest sense, people need to listen, to learn and to accept. We have the power to create this movement. Isn’t it time we use it?