Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Thank you Friedrich Nietzsche... and Mom

"The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently." -Friedrich Nietzsche

I was homeschooled from the time I entered 4th grade until the end of my junior year of high school. As I've already stated, I grew up in an extremely conservative church. My family is Republican, pro-life, pro-family, pro-prayer-in-schools, pro-NRA. Even when I read these things, I get a stereotype in my head of what someone who came from this kind of family would probably be like. They would either be the same.... or they would completely rebel and go 180 degrees in the opposite direction in life.

I've been thinking about this a lot lately... and how I didn't end up going down either of those paths. Oddly enough, I have to give my parents, especially my mother, some credit for it. Despite how strongly they hold to all of those beliefs, I have never once seen either of my parents treat someone badly for being different from them or for believing differently. While I never remember a time they specifically said "It is not okay to alienate someone or put them down because they are different from you" that idea was always understood in my family. My mother was always just as welcoming to the perpetually dirty kids from up the street who wandered the neighborhood till past our bedtime, as she was to our next-door neighbor kids who were always clean and called home for supper at 6. She was just as chatty and polite with the mom in the grocery aisle who was cursing at her kids and buying only cigarettes and soda as she would be with another homeschooling mom if she bumped into her in the store.

I guess what I took away from this is that people are people and you should treat them the same. Not that I'm really that great at it. My mom has a lot more grace than I do (she can even be polite to someone who is talking down to her, which is something I will never be able to do). But I think that spending my growing-up years with her helped me to see you shouldn't reject someone just because they aren't like you. That, in turn, helped me to be more open to other points of view. As I moved away from the little conservative bubble I grew up in and really began to form my own beliefs, I was even more able to study and appreciate views that weren't like mine. Granted, I can be really passionate about what I believe, not just in my (for lack of a better term) 'religious' beliefs, but also in what I believe is fair or unfair, right or wrong, good or bad in general. But I can appreciate, and even enjoy, discussing other points of view regardless of how different from my own they may be.

I know my mom isn't exactly a fan of Nietzsche. I'm sure that me writing a blog about her that begins with one of his quotes would seem extremely odd to her (heck, it seems weird to me and I'm the one writing it), but I think it's also a testament to her. That any of her kids would take a Nietzsche quote and be able to appreciate the truth in it, says to me that she is more than just a conservative, former-homeschooling mom. She tried to set a good example and teach us to think for ourselves.

You don't have to agree with someone to appreciate them or their point of view. I'm so glad this is something I've learned, as I would have missed out on many good experiences and relationships if I hadn't. I sincerely hope this is something I can teach to my own children.... that while they should carefully consider what they believe and why, they should never give more value to people who agree with them than they give to those who don't.


  1. I really like that quote and the tribute to your mother is beautiful. My sister-in-law said that as she is getting older she is finding more value in her friends that hold opposite views than ones that have similar. Those that are different from us make us search ourselves more.

  2. Anjeanette - Thanks for the comment! I think we can all use a reminder of this from time to time.