This I Believe

sara - bloomfield hills, Michigan
Entered on December 18, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: tolerance

“Every single person has at least one secret that would break your heart. If we could just remember this, I think there would be a lot more compassion and tolerance in the world.” I had read this quote on the website PostSecret at least a thousand times without ever stopping to think about what it really meant. Postsecret is an ongoing art project in which anyone can send in his or her secret to share with the world. It’s an opportunity to share a funny, disgusting, or painful secret, and the idea of the website is to help spread the idea of compassion and tolerance. This quote summarizes what I believe. I believe that if you just remember that everyone has a secret, everyone has a past, and everyone has something that you don’t know about, then you will be more accepting and more compassionate towards everyone.

This belief and the truthfulness of the quote became apparent to me during the retreat my entire senior class took last September. After a day of bonding through physical activities and challenges that required team effort, my entire class of 145 girls was gathered outside around a bonfire. We were told we could share whatever we thought everyone should know about us. After three years of being with these same girls every day, I felt like I knew them all pretty well. I had made my judgments and I knew who I liked and who I did not. I didn’t think there was much that could change that at this point.

Most of the girls were hesitant to share anything at first, but slowly people started to open up. One by one, each girl shared something with the class. Secrets like attempting to commit suicide or living with abusive parents as well as cheating on the previous day’s vocab quiz were all shared. By the end of the night, most of the girls were in tears and a barrier was broken between the cliques in my grade. After everyone put themselves out there to the class, sharing things we never thought we should, you could tell the dynamics of our class had changed.

Upon our return to school the next Monday, things were a little different. I would be exaggerating if I said we were all the best of friends, or even that we sat with different girls at lunch, but you could see the change in the subtle ways we all treated each other. Everyone was more considerate and more tolerant of the girls around them. Not just those at the retreat who had shared their secrets, but to all the girls in the school.

This exercise run by our school may seem a little forced. Placing all of us girls into one area with the sole purpose of sharing ourselves with each other is not exactly a real world situation. But actually going through the process and benefiting from it made me realize that every person does have something you might not know that can change the way you see them. It’s easy to judge people on just what you think you know about them. It’s easy to write someone off based on the first impression he or she gives you. And it’s easy to forget that people may have issues they are struggling with that you can’t even imagine. I believe that if you stop to think about what someone may be going through or what could have possibly happened to someone to make him the way he is, that you will be more tolerant and accepting, and I believe that’s what the world needs.