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Standing up for your Beliefs
(You don't have to go with the flow!).

Pretty much all of us have had the experience of having a new kid come into our class, well after the school year has started. The new kid standing in front of the class, looking at you just as you were looking at her, and then finally being given a seat in the class. Most of the time, because she/he doesn't know any one in the class, she ducks her head only and remains to herself. And it's very difficult for her to befriend others in the class, since they already have their cliques and their group of friends, and aren't usually very receptive into allowing others in.

Growing up, I was the "new kid" and since my family moved like nomads, I was unable to develop lasting friendships until recently. I find it amazing the many different ways that we interact with others and how we choose, more often than not, to follow the crowd and to do what everyone else does. Rarely do we stand up and say, "No, I'm going to do that because I think this is the right thing to do." Instead, our need and desire for acceptance from others gets in the way and encourages us to go along with what they are doing.

What happens when we do that? What happens when we sit by and listen to our friends criticize another person for no reason and we don't say anything about it? What happens when we do something that we know we shouldn't do because our friends convinced us that it was okay?

I believe that every action we take has it's consequence: some of those consequences are harsher than others, but they are still there and I believe that the consequence of following the crowd, instead of standing up for our own beliefs, is having to live with guilt. I remember once, a friend of mine and I were in the school gym, interviewing students for the school newspaper and there was this boy who had Down Syndrome. He had a basketball and was shooting some hoops and then, from out of nowhere, this group came up to him and took the basketball out of his hand. They bounced it and teased him with it, and then made him go and get the ball when it bounced out of their reach. My friend that I was with became so angry and he stopped the teasing and gave the boy the ball back.

I had never been so proud of anyone in my entire life as I was of my friend, because he refused, always, to allow others to control his own thoughts. I was very proud of him, but shouldn't the actions that he took be the norm? Shouldn't I, instead of having been proud of him for that, have been disappointed if he had chosen not to stop it?

We were each created uniquely: none of us are the same and, in my opinion, it diminishes our identity, our specialness, when we follow the crowd instead of standing up for ourselves and our beliefs. When we follow the others, what we're really doing is saying that our beliefs and our thoughts aren't as important or as right as everyone else's: that's not true! We only follow the people we do not because we necessarily agree with the actions but because we admire them for being able to take charge and to say, "This is what I'm going to do. Who's going to do it with me?" But you know what? If we said the same thing, then others would admire us for doing that and we could have more people choosing to do things that are right and good, instead of actions that only harm ourselves and others.

There was once a philosopher who believed that, in order to find the truth of things, he had to take apart everything he believed in and see what was left, so he did. He started examining why he believed in his religion, in life itself and do you know what he was left with? After he had taken apart all of the beliefs that most of us take for granted, he was left with the one sure fact that he existed and then, from that, he started thinking about everything before he would allow himself to believe it. There comes a point in each of our lives, I believe, when we have to say, "But why do I believe in doing this? Why do I believe in telling the truth? Why do I believe in doing the things I do?" and make sure that our beliefs are our beliefs and not someone else's.

Many times we are taught things and because those things are taught to us, we never question them: we merely believe them. When I was younger, and just learning about God and religion, I was being taught those things but you know what? It's not because I was taught that God exists that I know He does. I know He exists because I have experienced things in my life that simply would not have happened without Him and, after thinking about those experiences and coming to my own realization that He does exist, my belief is all the more powerful and meaningful to me because it is mine.

When we get in trouble and are asked why we did something, I think we'd all have to agree that most of the time, we answer, "I don't know," or "He did it so I thought it was okay," but it is those who are able to defend and explain their actions that are the most respected by the people in this world. The ones that can say, "I told the truth because lying only hurts me in the end" are the ones I would like to think we all model.

We are not robots. We all have minds of our own and we should be proud of ourselves for using those minds to come up with our own ideas.

In history, it has been the ones who went against the crowd that have made the most lasting of impacts on society: Princess Diana, Rosa Parks, Mother Teresa and, above them all, Jesus Christ. So, whenever doubt enters our thoughts and we're unsure if following our own beliefs is the right thing to do, remember those names and know that when you invite the new kid in school to sit at your lunch table, or to play on your team, you are following in the worlds heroes' footsteps.