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Raised That Way

“I was raised that way.”

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When people say it to me, I want to scream. That has started to morph into another reaction, one which is very difficult for me, to end the conversation and walk away. What is the point of having a conversation with someone whose foundation is based on what someone else told them to think? To me, it’s the ultimate, apathetic cop-out. Tell me you believe something, you practice something or you’ve chosen to treat others a certain way. But saying you were “raised that way” translates into you being a simplistic blob of molded plastic who is unable to form an opinion and who will only put out a pre-programmed list of answers if someone dares to pull the string at the back of the neck.

Three scenarios…

1…A person is raised with hands on parents who teach right and wrong, in the most open minded of ways. Live your life, let others live theirs, we are all the same underneath and everyone is equal.

2…A person is raised in a strict, Christian home and is taught that there is only one god, the bible is truth, hell is real and no questions asked.

3…A person is raised by parents who believe that rules are for authoritarians, made to be broken and that everything belongs to everyone.

Then, a conversation with each person, individually, which questions their belief system. Each time the reply is the same…”I was raised that way.”

Now, how do we react when we hear the phrase “I was raised that way” as it pertains to each of the above examples? Chances are, for the first example, we accept it. Isn’t it nice that this person’s parents raised them the right way, the way that is fair to everyone. But the second and particularly the third example? We’re likely not to accept it, even argue with it. What do you mean “you were raised that way” when it’s clear your parents only value Christians? What do you mean “you were raised that way” when you don’t value the rules we all live by and the property of others?

Clearly, people are raised in various ways. We all know that. But if we allow a person, say the person in example #1, to say “I was raised that way” instead of “I believe that all people are created equal” then don’t we have to allow the same latitude to the others? When we as a society hold up being raised a certain way as the end of the thought process, then we are not throwing out the value of critical thought and individuality?

The religious argument is the easiest to tear down. While most people don’t believe that raising a child to adhere to a religious belief is brainwashing, it’s clear that it is. We still live in a country dominated by Christianity and a world dominated by religious passion. Most parents don’t raise their children Christian from birth and then turn around to them at age 18 and ask “Now, do you believe in God?” Religion is still the one area that most people don’t question as they get older, and that most people will reply, when asked, “I was raised that way”.

Look at it in an educational framework. We all go to a school of some sort, are taught facts, then utilize those in our lives from then on (with the possible exception of algebra). After school, when presented with a math equation or a historical question, we don’t generally reply with the phrase “I was taught that way”, we simply answer the question.

“I was raised that way” is a powerful force in the restriction of civil rights for all people. Generally when people utter the phrase it’s because they were told from birth what to believe and what not to believe. People are taught to be prejudiced, taught to hate and taught to exclude. We all grow up with some kind of antiquated influence in our lives, whether it’s our parents or someone on the street. Children are susceptible to all sorts of influence because they haven’t lived enough and their brains are still developing. We’re supposed to take what we’re told from all sources and form our own opinion.

“I was raised that way” means you don’t think for yourself. It’s nothing to be proud of. In my opinion, it’s a reason for shame. Not because you were taught one thing or another, not because your parents were one kind of parent or another, but because you base your beliefs not on your own rational thought, but hand it off to another person. It means you haven’t taken the time to think it through. If you had, you’d respond with an imperative, not a submission.

I recently heard about a couple who broke up because one of them had an annoying habit. It was minor, and just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the long list of compromises that make up any long term relationship. Being in a 15 plus year relationship I was blown away by the reticence with which the third person relayed the story to me, steadfast that the man was completely right to end the relationship. Given the harmlessness of the offense, if we all applied such rigid standards, none of us would get past a six month relationship, if that. Just because one person was raised that you “just don’t do that”, they were willing to throw away a relationship rather than working it out. How about the wealthy not mixing with working class? Or people only marrying within their own faiths? Or any number of things drilled into children’s heads that they should choose to work their way out of? Do we value these belief choices simply because the parents told the children what to think?

If you come from the kind of parents in example number one, I hope that you don’t convey your adult opinions by uttering silly, lazy catch phrases. I hope you stand up proudly and say, this is the truth, that all people are created equal.

“I was raised that way” may be the beginning of who we are, but “I believe” or “I think” is where we’re supposed to end up. We need to stop accepting idiotic phrases such as “I was raised that way” and force people to figure things out for themselves. Individual thought is what leads to more equality, not an adherence to programming we had no control over.

Take control.

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