Blessed are the Troublemakers

We’re not supposed to talk about politics or religion. Or dietary preferences. Or the Star Wars prequels. It’s important, we’re told, to make sure nobody is offended.

I won’t speak for anybody else, but the vast majority of my really profound growth experiences started with me being challenged, even offended, by a differing opinion and the harsh realization that I didn’t know everything. In those moments, sometimes I changed my mind, and sometimes my convictions were validated. Either way, I grew.

Shouldn’t we challenge one another? Yes, there are bullies. For some people, communication is an ego trip, an opportunity to feel better by making somebody else feel worse. I’m not sure that refusing to communicate makes things better, though. If some people throw their weight around when the topic turns to something challenging, does the discourse improve when everybody else shuts up? Some people drive recklessly. Should we abolish the speed limit?

I understand the desire to avoid trouble. On the other hand, suppressing ourselves is pretty troublesome, too. When we’re stifled and censored, the desire to understand and be understood remains and eventually boils over. We try and express and explore our identities through selfies and misquoted Facebook posts.

(As an aside: Gandhi never said "be the change you want to see in the world." Steve Jobs’ last words had nothing to do with that passage that folks are sharing. Also, I’m not a Nigerian prince with a desperate need for one million American dollars and an accomplice. I DO have a bridge to sell you, but that’s a topic for another time.)

There’s nothing wrong with politics. According to Funk & Wagnalls, If you want to get something done that involves a group of people, the process is a political one. Yes, some people have done awful things under that banner, but that doesn’t mean that the process is bad. It means we need to do it better. Misuse becomes mainstream when healthy voices are silenced. The answer isn’t to shut up. The answer is to speak up.

There’s nothing wrong with religion. Spirituality is a beautiful thing, but it’s an intimate, personal experience. If you’re inspired to the point where you want to do something about it, which is the goal after all, you’re doing religion. Everybody is religious, even if they dislike the word. When inspiration becomes conviction becomes action, that’s religion. As I always say, spirituality is about how you feel, and religion is about what you do. We need both. Yes, some pretty terrible things have been done in the name of religion, but that doesn’t mean that we should quit doing it. We just need to do it better.

I hope you’ve noticed that the previous two paragraphs are virtually identical. As it turns out, the same thing can be said about pretty much every "forbidden" topic. The answer isn’t escape, it’s uplilftment.

Unless we’re talking about those Star Wars prequels. We don’t discuss those in polite company.