This week, I’m going to break away from the monotonous onslaught of poetry I have been posted the past several weeks and post an opinion piece.

This is my opinion on opinions.

I recently started teaching a unit on racism in the classroom I am student teaching in. As you know, racism is a very sensitive topic, and there are a great deal of opposing views, even just at the high school level. Because of this, it was my duty as the teacher to ensure that my students knew what was expected of them during these discussions. Now, onto the point of this post.

Everyone has their opinions.

Poof. End of story. That’s it.

These opinions are all okay to have. Yes, even the ones that may or may not be considered hateful. That’s the beauty of being human. We are supposed to think differently from one another. Our brains are so advanced that to think identically to our peers would make the past several thousand years of evolution pointless. We are individuals who have each experienced different events and reacted in different ways. That’s the beauty of the human condition.

HOWEVER!

These opinions become bad only when they actually alter the behavior of the human afflicted by them. This occurs when people stop discussing their beliefs with their fellow humans in a mature and calm fashion. The passion some individuals feel for certain subjects can boil up and blind them to their actions in the heat of discussion.

Humans are cursed with the ability to control their actions. Our brains have developed to the point where we are incredibly aware of our decisions and the consequences, regardless of whether or not we choose to acknowledge that fact (yes, of course there are exceptions in situations involving conditions such as mental illnesses. However, please note that I am speaking on a more general level).

Everyone has the choice to use their overly-developed brains to control their actions and reactions. Choosing to neglect the responsibility we all have as wielders of intelligence and functioning gray matter results in ruthless Facebook comment wars, spittle-flinging screaming matches, and destroyed interpersonal relationships.

Concluding thought: As I told my students prior to beginning our discussion on racism, your opinions are okay. Your belief model, political party, or lifestyle does not render your opinion ‘wrong.’ These things do not make you a bad or a good person. They do not have to limit your friendships and discussions. The only way these things will ever affect you negatively is when the passion you have for them morphs you into an unnecessary raging lunatic who cannot calm down enough to understand that some people do not share the same beliefs.

The point I am trying to get across is that you, as an opinionated person, don’t need to be a jerk. You can have civil conversations with people of opposing beliefs. You can choose not to involve yourself in an argument on Facebook. You can choose to construct your thoughts with facts and credible sources rather than with fallacious information and petty insults.

You owe it to yourself to be a well-mannered, opinionated, socially-advanced creature. So don’t be a jerk.

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