When we’re younger, we think things are funny that we don’t understand, or we laugh at things that really aren’t funny, just because everyone else is also laughing at it.
When we look back on that time in our personal history, it’s frequently met with the feeling of shame. We say things and do things because we want to fit in. Children learn from the world around them. The rhetoric in the media and the words of our friends, family, and classmates have the ability to impact us.
Children practice what is preached to them. Sometimes the things that are preached aren’t exactly the nicest.
That rape joke? Now that the child-now-adult knows and understands and realizes the impact of it, it disgusts them that laughing was the first response they had. Those times they judged someone without even trying to know them? That person turned out to be amazing. The struggles they were going through at the time colored the judge’s eyes and outlook on them. When one judges a person without a thought—and this is done all the time, with or without a thought—they’re blockading not only that person, but themselves, from a friendship or an acquaintance that could have been beneficial.
We are taught to think then act, but what if we don’t know what to think?
At high schools and into adulthood, women who practice sexual freedom and choose to do with what they will with their own bodies are called sluts. However, when men practice this, it’s viewed by society as “boys being boys.”
I would love to say that I am free from doing any one of these things, but I can’t. I don’t think anyone can. I have laughed at a rape joke, and I have thought someone was a slut. I have judged someone without knowing them and regretted my own quick assessment of their persona. I wish that part of myself never existed, because while I know now that I was wrong, I really, truly, and completely just didn’t think about it at the time. This is the problem: I didn’t think. We don’t think.
I wish I could go back in time and apologize for all the things I’ve done, but I can’t. I’ll do the next best thing; I’ll work on growing from my mistakes.
I think that’s a part of being human that we have to embrace: Growing from our mistakes. I realized the errors in my way through books. I love books and how they allow the reader to experience perspectives that are not their own. This is how I realized that I had to change my way of thinking. It doesn’t happen overnight, and it does happen when a conscious effort is made. I laugh when my friend says Tumblr changed his perspective. He laughs when I say books have changed mine.
This is how we re-learn how to think and develop the capacity to maintain and create our own individual perspectives and ideas. This is how we become informed individuals in society who have the ability to sympathize, even if we are unable to empathize. It’s important to be able to understand when what we are doing, or did do, was wrong and hurtful. It’s even more so important that we try to change what we are doing wrong.
When we’re learning what the world is compiled of, we are forced to make decisions. Some of those aren’t the best ones, but we’re all capable of learning from out mistakes.