I love country music. I love the stories it tells, the catchy tunes and I even love the recurrent themes that appear in many of the songs.
While there are thousands of people that join me in the fan club of country music, I am well aware that there is a very large group that, apart from just not liking country music, actually resents it and genuinely believes it is terrible. There have been many times in my life when I have been sincerely criticized for listening to this genre.
While these critiques haven’t pushed me to stop listening to the music I enjoy, for some people it might. Stretching this issue a little bit further, this doesn’t just apply to music choice. Everyone has their opinions about their preferences. Whether this be music, TV shows, movies, books, food choice, news outlets or anything else.
This difference of opinions obviously includes different beliefs politically, religiously and in other deeper topics. I am well aware of these topics and will address them. However, I am mentioning the simpler opinions because there is no way people are going to feel comfortable sharing their beliefs and values if they don’t feel comfortable letting someone know they would prefer one restaurant over another.
There are many people that share their opinions loud and proud and aren’t afraid of what anyone thinks. However, there are so many people that feel ashamed when confronted with a different opinion, which is sad for both ends. On the side of the popular opinions, often there is a subconscious shaming that takes place when someone expresses an opinion that varies from their own.
To put this into perspective, how many times have we heard the phrase, “You eat pineapple on pizza? That is so gross!” Of course, this is not a judgment of someone’s character. Still, an individual who has a hard enough time being different or having the attention on them might have a hard time with this criticism. It can cause them to not want to share their less popular opinions in the future because of shaming, whether it be a joke or not.
Now looking at the other side, I will go back to my country music example. I am by no means perfect at this because I have my fair share of opinions that I keep to myself depending on the people I am around, but I can’t imagine not jamming out to Kane Brown or Blake Shelton while on a road trip with my friends. It is discouraging thinking that there are people who would fully prefer to suppress their opinions than share and be different.
This suppression of opinions is most seen when individuals choose to not eat the pizza around other people or not listen to the music that they love in hopes that they slide under the radar and aren’t called out for their unique, sometime unpopular opinion.
Rather than hiding those things, we should learn to not be afraid to own it. We should own our opinions because they can’t be taken from us. No one has the right to tell someone that their opinion is wrong.
The opinions I have referenced may seem too simple to cause a stir, but like I mentioned earlier, it is crucial to practice expressing them on the smaller-scaled things because when it comes to bigger beliefs and values like religion, politics, stances on social issues, etc., they define the way we live our life in the choices we make each day.
Contrary to my earlier pizza example, differences of opinion in some of these areas do cause people to judge a person’s character. According to a study done by the Pew Research Center, nearly half of both Republicans and Democrats view the opposing party as “unfavorable.”
Differences in political and religious views too often separates families, break up friendships and insert an automatic division among people — unnecessarily.
This isn’t a plea for mere toleration. I hope we can love, accept and understand those that think differently. In an effort to see why people think or act the way they do, we will all walk away as a better, more educated person.
Likewise, returning to my earlier argument, it is also important to not shy away from the opinions we do have. Confidently sharing what we believe and why is a way to express individuality and can also give an opportunity to learn and be accepting of those who really do desire to widen their understanding.
Every day that passes by brings a new opportunity to become a better person. My hope is that we will take one of these countless growing opportunities to love and accept all people. Learn from their opinions to enhance your own and don’t be afraid to share what yours are.
In the words of Florida Georgia Line, a favorite country band of mine, in their song “People are Different:”
“Can’t walk down the street and smile at a stranger
Heart on your sleeve and love thy neighbor
No matter what shape, no matter what color
Break bread instead of fighting each other
Slip on a pair of another man’s shoes
You’ll see by the time you get back
This whole world would be a whole lot better place
If we’d all just embrace the fact
That people are different.”
We are different and that is okay. Our opinions aren’t the same as everyone else’s and that is okay. Opinions can and probably will change and that is okay. Hopefully, we can all learn to accept others, and until then, I will loudly and proudly listen to my country music while eating my pineapple pizza.