For sensitive people, it can be difficult to express an unpopular opinion. You might write something publicly – an article, a comment – only to find out later that your words were twisted to extremes and savagely attacked. You might pour your heart and longings in front of the world, only to be mocked or dismissed with artificial, cold politeness.
You might object to generalizations of all sorts – generalizations against Muslims, against Western society, against hypocritical “patriotism”, against the passive-aggressive lamentations about “humans being so much worse than animals (author and his/her friends excluded, of course)” etc. You might object to pseudoscience and extreme views. You might feel that you are trying to be friendly and helping people let go of prejudice and come to a mutual understanding. The problem is, this is not what many people want.
We are wired to defend our prejudice. We are wired to defend people we feel close to, even against evidence that they might have done something wrong. Those generalized, extreme ideas help people feel more powerful and better than others. They will not take it lightly if you try to take them away. They will easily find excuses to attack you. You might write about people being kind and compassionate – and somebody will always find a way to interpret it as if you suggested that their dear old grandmother should be strangled in her sleep.
Should you give up and stop bothering? The pain of rejection might make you feel that it’s not worth it. Your need to belong, your instinct to be a part of a group, might scare you into avoiding trouble, especially after many unpleasant surprises already behind you.
But it’s not about changing other people – or at least not specific other people, or at least not quickly. It’s about being true to your conscience and your values. You are putting your thoughts out there, not to elicit a specific reaction, but to be at least one voice in midst of many, perhaps a voice that might make some small difference here and there. Even more than that, it’s about supporting yourself in face of fear and pain.
Some people will hide between artificial, oversimplified “political correctness” to avoid talking about complex problems. Some people will misunderstand your words, whether accidentally or semi-deliberately. Some might try to insult or frighten you into submission.
But it’s not about fighting them. It’s about gently, lovingly challenging yourself to be brave, to own your words, to make mistakes and learn. That is courage. Sometimes you will choose wrong words. Sometimes you will make assumptions based on inaccurate data or rumors. Sometimes you will be perfectly correct and reasonable, but people just won’t like what you say. And twisting words is so easy.
Yet for every person who attacks you, there might be three that are silently considering what you said. Perhaps they cannot find courage to approve you publicly, but it doesn’t mean that you were unheard and unappreciated. Aggressive people are usually the loudest, and gentle people are more likely to observe in silence. Still, they are there and they are many.
If you expose yourself, you will often be attacked. Sometimes you will be wrong, even if you take care to write with highest integrity. Your mistakes will be used against you. Yet, every mistake means that you are building wisdom. How could you become wise if you avoid experiences? Slowly, you might become slightly more bulletproof, even if expressing unpopular opinion might never be easy. But you will feel alive – much more alive than if you were hiding like a hermit crab in its shell.