“Women should have the right to vote.”
“Black people should have the right to be free from slavery.”
“The Earth is round.”
What is the common thread among these commonly held viewpoints of today?
At points in the past, each of them was considered an offensive suggestion.
Heresy! Causes to expel one from the social order.
We’ve come a long way.
A really, really long way.
When you think of how far we’ve come since those days, it can be mind-boggling to think of how differently previous generations thought and lived.
The things we universally accept today as heinous, backward, regressive, and worse, were once considered unquestionably virtuous by large blocks of society.
Which quite possibly could have included you, by the way.
And those blocks of society included those that controlled the levers of power.
So we should be grateful for the progress we’ve made over the years.
But the fact that progress had to be made should also make us mindful.
Mindful that many, or most, of those living in those times did not believe progress was necessary. They had it figured out and in their own minds their stances were correct, not to be questioned.
To question those backward beliefs was considered offensive, sometimes in the best case scenario.
But they needed to have their sensibilities and assumptions “offended”.
Their beliefs were just plain wrong, no matter how many held them and no matter how many powerful institutions held them.
The question we need to ask ourselves is, what are we (and/or our powerful institutions) wrong about today?
As they held incorrect beliefs or assumptions then, so do we today.
In fact, the one thing we know for certain is that we will look back on this time and say “Yikes. How did so many of us accept that as true?”
The only question is which “truths” will be the ones that cause us to shake our heads and say “whoa”.
Previous generations and previous eras held some pretty strong beliefs, universally, that couldn’t seem more comical to us today.
There is a reason why our history books do not record that time when Christopher Columbus and his crew flopped over the edge of the earth on their way to India.
What is our “edge of the earth”?
We have some, and it’s possible some of them are beliefs you or I hold dear.
Every generation learns many of its assumptions were wrong.
This one should not be considered to be any different.
We need to be open to assumptions being offended.
Sometimes they are just offensive and we have to deal with that in love. But sometimes they expose our “edge of the earth”.
Time will tell just what our “edges of the earth” are and what we might be blinded to, but in order for time to tell, we must accept that somewhere they exist. That there is growth to be had, assumptions to change, and orthodoxies to be discarded.
Beliefs that need to be offended.
We’re not done changing and we’re not done growing.
We should not assume we’ve already reached our peak.
Previous generations may have thought they had, but again, they were wrong.
In fact, being short of our peak is an exciting proposition.
Would you rather be at your peak right now, or know that you can be even better and greater tomorrow?
Which is more exciting for you?
It should be the latter.
So let’s not look down upon the need for future growth.
We should be grateful the generations that preceded us ultimately did not, no matter how long it took them and how much resistance there was to the offensive counter-opinions of the day.
We should also be grateful that the offensive counter-opinions were eventually allowed to exist.
Eventually the offensive opinions of those who stood against the orthodoxy prevailed. They then learned that the status quo of the time was in fact not the peak of society.
Far from it.
And it is due in large part to the fact that people were eventually afforded the right to offend the orthodoxy.
And they continued to offend, in larger and larger numbers, until a critical mass of people realized the incorrect assumptions in their society, could no longer resist the truth, and made a change.
Sometimes, yesterday’s offensive speech turns into today’s truth.
There is only one way to find out which speech is offensive simply because it is offensive and which speech is offensive because it is true.
And that is by allowing all offensive speech to be spoken.
Including the repugnant.
By protecting even the speech of the repugnant, we allow ourselves the opportunity to discern among all the offensive speech that which is truly repugnant and that which is actually exposing the repugnance of our own selves.
Offensive speech always exposes one or the other, no exceptions.
If we attempt to censor that which we think is repugnant today, as our ancestors found there is a good chance we could be censoring the truth of tomorrow.
We must allow the repugnant to express itself, so it can expose itself. If we are interested in the growth of ourselves and others, exposing repugnance is a necessary act, no matter its owner.
We may tend to assume that anything that offends us is simply someone else’s repugnant viewpoint. That would be gentler on our egos, anyway. It is much easier for us to reconcile ourselves with our current world view if we simply assign repugnance to those who think or see things differently than us.
But history up to this point in time has taught us that no society has been blameless. Our own lives have taught us that we ourselves up to this point in time have not been blameless.
So we must account for the fact that we all currently hold beliefs that, at the least, need adjustment and flexibility.
And at the worst might be repugnant.
This can be a hard truth to accept, but if we are truly interested in growth and the truth, we cannot ignore it.
And if we do accept this truth, the prospects of anything offending us become too small to even measure.
But if we focus on attempting to stamp out all offensive speech, we will never know when we’ve stamped out speech that may have actually saved us.
That is too high a price to pay.
If you like this article, you will love my gratitude journal!
I wrote the introduction to help guide you and provide you with motivation to start your mindset shift and contribute to your growth, then watch your growth compound over time and your life change for the better.
Having something – anything – to serve as a motivational reminder to be grateful can help a great deal. Whether it’s a gratitude journal or something else.
I like a gratitude journal.
Stay consistent and watch your life change positively.
You have the power to decide what you believe and who you will be.
So believe in the best and believe in you!