I’ve been mulling this over in my head for a couple days. Trying to pinpoint what I’m wanting to say, attempting to get the words right, and I’m not one hundred percent sure that I’ve nailed it, but I’m going to see what happens. Here goes! (PS—when I use the word “beliefs” here, I’m not speaking of only religious beliefs, I’m referring to beliefs of any type. Politics, government, hot topics, religion, society, sexuality, race….the list is endless.)
I am blessed with two fabulous parents. This October, they will celebrate their 46th wedding anniversary. They both retired from decades-long careers in January. They are respected members of their community and within their circle of friends and family.
My parents raised me in a montage of ways. One, they raised me the way they had been raised in many aspects. Morals and beliefs were handed down to me just as skills were shared and taught. The other way they raised me was specifically the opposite of some of what they’d gone through as children. Mom and Dad didn’t grow up in the worst situations, but they worked hard to make sure my brother and I didn’t experience some of what they were faced with in their youth.
I was brought up in a Christian home. We attended a Baptist church for much of my childhood before attending a Methodist church when I was about twelve. The small town I grew up in was the epitome of White Anglo Saxon Protestant America. I had a good childhood. I learned the value of honesty and hard work, respecting others and earning respect, and being myself while accepting others. We prayed before bed, we prayed before meals, we went to church on Sundays, and we had several Bibles throughout our home. Today, four decades later, I still claim and hold faithfully to my Christianity. (How other so-called Christians act and behave in the name of God is another post altogether! But please don’t ever lump me in with them.)
Now, all of THAT to say….I am so very appreciative of my parents and their willingness to teach me the ways they were taught, but not to balk and discourage me finding my own way. My morals and beliefs are built upon my upbringing, but my parents allowed me to branch out, to feel my way, to form my own thoughts and beliefs. And for that, I am forever grateful.
I grew up in a very close-minded area. A very judgmental area. An area where if you were different, you weren’t accepted. But, my parents never let those things be taught to me. Yes, it’s taken being on my own, fully an adult, making friends outside of my knowledge and experience base, for me to form my own beliefs, but I’m so very blessed to have parents who allowed me to reach and research and ask and learn and grow and change. I know without a doubt that many others would have tried to stop me, tried to quiet me, tried to discourage me, possibly even punished or disowned me when I took steps toward expanding my knowledge, growing my circle, learning new things, challenging and possibly changing my beliefs.
So many people grow up being taught one thing and they never question it because it’s what they were always taught, it’s what their family and friends believe. And, if that’s for you, that’s fine. But, it’s sad to me if you WANT to question, you WANT to challenge, you WANT to expand, but you’re knocked down, told no, ridiculed for it. That’s not okay. Humans should constantly be allowed and encouraged to challenge and question and learn and grow.
All of that gibberish to say I’m grateful I have parents who allowed me to be ME. Encouraged me to be an individual. Never told me I was wrong for questioning. Never told me I was “bad” for believing a certain way. Never once questioned me when I befriended someone different than me. Never once punished me for not seeing things exactly their way. Never distanced themselves from me when my passions weren’t the same as theirs.
My hope is that I can be the same for my children. There are a billion beliefs and opinions about a trillion different things. No one way is the only right way. I want very much for my children to grow up safe, loved, and supported. My dream for my own children is that I can encourage them to question, to challenge, to learn, and to grow no matter what. Don’t just settle for the status quo.
My parents still have their own beliefs (however, based on the type of guidance they were for me growing up, I’d hazard to say they have challenged/questioned/changed some of those beliefs because that’s the type of people they are), but they never stopped me from forming my own even if my beliefs were different than their own. And that has been one of the most encouraging and supportive things they could have ever done for me.
Thank you for allowing me to get these words out of my head.