This I Believe

Philip - State College, Pennsylvania
Entered on April 21, 2006
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: question

I believe that opinions should be challenged and reevaluated. Born in the United States, I learned the value of voicing my opinions at an early age. The First Amendment – the right to freedom of speech – is one that we should appreciate and exercise. When I was growing up, my parents often questioned me about the beliefs behind my opinions. It was not enough to say that I didn’t like something “just because,” I was taught that there was always an underlying sentiment, whether I realized it or not. Because of this, I realized at a very early age that it is possible and even necessary to challenge my own opinions once in awhile. My belief in the sanctity of one’s opinions led me to at once respect others’ opinions while also questioning them. While this may seem paradoxical to some, they both serve the same purpose in my mind. By being interested in what brought them to their opinions, I am opening myself to a different perspective and possibly even reconsidering my own beliefs.

Yet, more and more, I see that people are becoming reluctant to question their opinions. They are beginning to equate their opinions to their very being and as a result, it would be impolite or even violently offensive for anyone to question those ideas, regardless of the intention. This is a problem. In our society, which has become so worried about being politically correct and not stepping on anyone’s toes, we often forget that opinions are exactly that: opinions. They are derived from our culture, our family values, our education, and our environment. We modify our opinions as we learn more about the world around us and gain more experiences, more stories.

We all have different opinions, which are based from the stories of our life. When people talk to each other, they hear these stories which help them to evaluate their opinions. Without these stories, which represent all the dynamics that have brought us to where we are today, we could not formulate educated opinions. When I went to summer camp one year, I was forced to open up and talk to other people, because I was outside of my comfort zone. In those ten days, I learned more about my friends than I had learned about some of the friends I had known for years. Even now, five years afterwards, I still talk with some of them. When I walk across campus, I see a myriad of people immersed in their iPods and cell phones; they seldom meet my gaze, let alone strike up conversation. Although they are close to me in physical proximity, we are not even in the same world mentally. I need to push myself back outside of my comfort zone, so that I can hear their stories.

I believe that having opinions is a crucial part of being alive. I believe that reassessing these opinions through the stories we hear makes life worth living.