While reviewing past blog posts, I re-read one I posted in June of 2013. In the post, I discuss important advice I was given as a teenager. That advice, to educate yourself on a topic before passing judgement, holds true to this day as a core element of my character. I’d like to build on that idea with this post and I hope to spark some thought in your mind. I haven’t written much in the way of an expressed thought greater than 140 characters in quite a while. A plethora of reasons led me to stray from setting aside the time to share my thoughts in this format. For better or worse I’ve decided to let loose some of those thoughts again, for you my dear reader.

The past 15 months have brought many developments in my life. I began and ended a relationship that was more of a healing process than a desire for companionship. I’ll likely elaborate on that at some point in the future as it is easily its own entry. That relationship helped bring me to a state of mind that allowed me to enter into a relationship with a woman that is more inline with who I am. Part of the healing process for me was how I came to cope with the actions of myself and those around me. I’ll delve into what makes my brain tick in later posts, but I came to a realization that simply knowing something is only the beginning. As much information as I absorb on a daily basis, I wasn’t truly understanding what it meant. Knowing that someone acts a certain way is much different than understanding why they act that way. You must identify the drive behind the person or action and what pushes them in that direction.

Gaining knowledge of a specific topic can greatly assist your ability to form an opinion of that topic. It is far better to form an educated opinion than one of ignorance and too often we see the proliferation of misinformation on social media. Frequently this is due to the passive nature by which the information is obtained. Scrolling through Facebook or Twitter and seeing an exciting tagline accompanying a short summary of the linked information is enough to earn a repost. Sadly, too many people don’t actually read the linked material. Fewer still don’t bother to vet the source or at the very least complete a quick search to obtain a second source. The information is there, it grabs your attention, and two clicks later gets the repost.

I don’t include the mindless drivel of celebrity information and the like in my assessment of social media ignorance. I’m referring more to the articles of human social behavior, race, gender acceptance, politics, etc. Sharing unfounded articles and posts of misinformation that seek to gain attention over educating their readers breeds a dangerous culture. Researching issues that impact society before sharing your opinion will place you closer to an actual understanding of the topic; even if you disagree with it.

The topic that helped set me down this path initially was religion. I was challenged to experience Christianity before I issued my uneducated criticisms and I am a better person for it. There are many elements to Christianity and actions of its adherents that improve the world we live in. To issue a blanket classification that the belief system and all of its followers are to be regarded as less than is a disservice to the effort of humanity. This isn’t to say that my initial criticisms were unfounded. I hold fast in many of the basic faults I was drawn to ridicule as a child.What my teenage mind didn’t grasp at the time of the challenge and introduction to the world of Christianity was the importance of understanding.

To know is limited. You must find it within your cognitive capacity to understand as well. An understanding of a topic allows for the comprehension of the core idea and motivation for those participating. While I was quick to pass judgement on my early observations, I didn’t fully understand why a belief structure such as Christianity could gather so many followers. It wasn’t until I removed emotion and took my time to understand the contents, drive, and social implications behind such a belief that I began to form an actionable opinion.

This way of thinking of course doesn’t only apply to such mammoth topics as religion, but it was the turning point for my thought process. It can be applied to a range of topics from life philosophies to why someone at work berates the microwave. Understanding brings us closer together as a species. It can break down the barriers we place between ourselves and those that live differently. Understanding does not mean you condone the behavior or point of view held by those you are learning of. By understanding something you may even gain a deep seated opposition stronger than what you felt prior to your deeper knowledge. The value lies in your perception. Understanding that the experiences of an individual or a group help to view those involved as human beings. Understanding that something that began as a means to control the uneducated masses by the educated few to maintain social order can blossom into a revered life philosophy over 2000 years changes how you discuss it. In the case of Christianity, and religion as a whole, modern day adherents believe out of tradition, guidance, and fear. To understand what religion is and how it affects its followers brings forth a level of respect lacking from the teenage mind yelling about tax exempt status and gaudy buildings. Do I agree with the Christian story of creation, life on Earth, and death? Not at all, but to dismiss some of the writings and actions brought forth from the ancient world view is abhorrent. Good people are good people regardless of their faith, or lack thereof. I understand what drives a person to believe and as long as they don’t seek to harm another, I have no issue with their belief structure.

I challenge you to pick a topic or individual that you are unfamiliar with and seek to understand them. If you are a person of faith, educate yourself on the mind of an adherent to a different faith or someone that doesn’t believe at all. Democrats should research Republicans. You get the point. Seek both biased and unbiased sources and learn to spot the differences. We owe it to one another to try our best to understand what drives our fellow human beings on this beautiful blue marble.

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