Jan. 1 brought a lot of changes into our already changing world. In the last 10 days, I have heard many conversations among people who are in disagreement with new laws, religious choices, and personal preferences.

I was raised by my grandparents who were very “old school.” They got me and my brother and sister to raise when they were 65 and 68 years old.

I was not allowed to date until I was 16. I had to be home by 11 p.m., and I lived an hour from town where the nearest movie theater and pizza joint existed. I did not taste alcohol until I was married and in my 20s.

Don’t get me wrong. It seemed everyone around me — my fellow teens — was drinking and sexually active. More than 20 percent of my classmates were pregnant at some point in high school.

In my high school class of 26, 19 of us graduated. But my grandparents instilled in me to stand strong in who I was as a person and to KNOW what I believed in. With that came research to learn every aspect of my beliefs so that I could make an informed decision on which side I stood.

The caveat is that my grandparents also taught me to respect others’ viewpoints and positions on issues and that I did not have to agree with them to get along with them. We could respectfully agree to disagree.

I was taught that in tearing down someone else because of his or her beliefs, I was only demonstrating my ignorance. That does not mean I cannot have a spirited discussion with someone to share my point of view. But someone else’s religious views, sexual orientation and other personal preferences are not for me to judge. That judgment comes at a much higher level to which I will never ascend.

When we judge others and condemn them because they are different from us, we shortchange ourselves on growing as individuals and also knowing some pretty magnificent people.

I have mentioned before that my grandfather migrated to the United States during the Nazi regime. I was raised clearly not to judge someone else by his heritage or culture or even his belief system.

But my grandparents also taught me right from wrong. I know that I believe, and my acceptance of others regardless of their beliefs or preferences does not mean I approve of their choices. It means that I respect them as individuals, realizing they must make their own choices for which they will answer.

In these conversations I have heard in the last 10 days, I have heard a lot of misinformation and I wondered how others formed their beliefs. What is something they heard someone else say? Did they do any research to see if what they heard or read had any validity? In today’s information age, there is really no excuse to not know where you stand in your beliefs and why you believe what you do.

If you have not made a New Year’s resolution, or if you have, I encourage you to add to the list. Our world is always changing. Know what those changes are and educate yourself so that you are strong in your beliefs and you are willing and able to discuss them with others.

I believe that people are placed in our paths for very specific reasons and we are to respect each other regardless of our differences.

I don’t have to agree with you to accept you. We can all get along.

Contact Wendy Sledd at wsledd@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7476

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