The event that changed my way of thinking was not a single interaction but a collection of them, throughout a semester in high school. I went to Regis Jesuit High School, a Catholic school in Southern Aurora. My daily routine in high school differed greatly from most of you I’m sure. I attended mass regularly, wore a collared shirt and khakis, and partook in class with all boys (the girls’ school was across the campus). I hated tucking in my shirt, found mass as a mandatory formality, and thought giving detention the name “JUG” (Justice Under God) was merely an intimidation tactic. Despite my list of angsty complaints, there was something that I’ll appreciate for the rest of my life; my Theology class pushed me in ways I didn’t think I was capable of.
What I thought was going to be a semester full of studying foreign religions and reading excerpts from the Quran and Torah, turned out to be the most morally inspiring time of my life. Each day exposed a different area of hypocrisy and ignorance that I exemplified throughout my life. We talked about things such as wearing clothes made at sweat shops in Taiwan and Vietnam, systematic oppression of women across the globe, how children who are bought and forced into slavery harvest the chocolate we eat, and how the homeless population can’t use your sympathy to feed and cloth themselves. Every day made me feel worse about myself than the last. ‘How could I have really lived 16 years without even considering that these issues aren’t just far away nightmares, but that social injustice is happening everywhere around me?’ My teacher was a PHD and brilliant. Every day he purposefully upset those who were listening by pointing out how privileged and ignorant we all were. The rest of the semester pushed me further and further into doubting everything I thought I knew about the world, a habit that I will use forever.
I wish I could say that this class molded me into a moral expert who was all-informed about the injustices going on around me. Unfortunately, I’m no expert on global atrocities and wouldn’t stand a chance in a scholarly debate about forms of oppression in America. However what this class did for me was push me to change my point of view. I left that class angry every day, reassuring myself ‘oh I’m not a bad person’ ‘those things are just out of my control’, but when the course was finally finished I realized I had developed a valuable school of thought. I’m not the center of the universe. I’m a privileged, white male who lives in a country that provides me with endless opportunities with comparatively no barriers to succeed. Admitting your unbiased position in the world should make you uncomfortable to admit, and I believe that uncomfortability is where the most valuable learning is able to take place. I’ve found that as a general rule of thumb, if you’re comfortable you’re not growing in life. Since that class I’ve wanted to push myself to feel out of my comfort zone, to place myself entirely in the shoes of someone who has an extremely different perspective than me. Given the recent change in administration, for example, I’ve found it’s more important than ever to try and think about every stakeholder affected by executive decisions. Regardless of what political beliefs I have, if I’m comfortable taking one side and pretending the struggles of everyone affected don’t exist, then I’m ignorant, and to me that’s the worst thing I can be in my life.
While I continue to try and educate myself on all points of view, I’ll never be the perfect moral example. My opinions will never be flawless, and I’ll never have the ethical authority to tell others what is right and wrong. However, thanks to that Theology class in high school and Mr. Beyer, I’ll always have the drive to push myself out of my comfort zone. That class gave me a new mindset, regardless of where I end up I’ll never stop trying to combat the ignorance and hypocrisy that’s so comfortable to live within.