Up until recently, I had never thought of myself as a person with strong convictions. Honestly, I had never really known what it meant to have convictions, or to be someone who was strongly convicted about one thing or another. It was just nothing I had ever considered before. I remember one night last summer, I had gotten into an argument with my sister about the Native population (she was arguing that they're all just lazy drunks, I was arguing that our political system and social structure doesn't give them the same opportunity as what my sister and I have been given). I was so angry by the end that I got up and had to leave. My boyfriend at the time was with me, surveying the entire argument. He never jumped in, which surprised me. I was sure he had some opinion on the matter, even if it didn't side with either me or my sister. Afterwards, he & I went to get ice cream. I laid into him about why he didn't jump into debates like that, and he just shrugged and didn't say anything (this wasn't a surprise - this boyfriend never said much and never had an opinion on anything). After a while of me eating my ice cream and pouting about his lack of an answer, he said, "I really admire you for how strong your convictions are." I just blinked at him and didn't understand. After I asked for clarification, I sat across from this boy thinking, "Oh my gosh - he doesn't stand up for anything, any type of injustice, any type of opinion, because he simply doesn't care about anything." It had never occurred to me before. I just always assumed that everyone had strong convictions on every type of possible thing to have convictions about. Ask me for my opinion on a matter, and I'll let you know what way I lean. Challenge my opinion on a matter, and you bet I'll fight for it, hard. But this former boyfriend of mine, he never had any opinion on anything. Climate change? Nope. Drug legalization? Nope. Student debt? Try again. Abortion? Nah-uh. War in the Middle East? Nothing. All of these massive things that shape the life that he was living, he had no say about because he literally didn't care about any of it.
I was floored after he gave me that compliment. On one hand, it showed me something about myself that I had never thought about before. On the other hand, it showed this gaping hole where there was a complete difference in values between him & I. How could I, a person who holds steadfast to her values and beliefs, be with someone who had no values or beliefs to hold to? This wasn't something that I had never realized in the relationship before. My mother had pointed it out to me on numerous occasions, and there was always a quietness to him whenever I brought up a hot-button topic. It always irked me slightly, but it never seemed like a big deal - at least, not until he brought the word conviction into the conversation. Suddenly, when a word like conviction was being bandied about, the whole thing seemed extremely serious. A red flag began waving at me as I finished up my ice cream that evening. The rest of the night was quiet and cautious as I rolled the word conviction around in my mind.
For me, my convictions tell me how I lead my life. My convictions on climate change dictate the type of transportation I use, the type of products I buy, if I'm going to carry this pop can home with me just so that I can recycle it. My convictions about animal welfare just forced me to spend $20 on free range, hormone free, naturally fed chicken. Had I not cared at all about this stuff, I could've spent $7 on the same amount of chicken. My convictions about equal rights led me to my passion for non-profit work, and particularly the non-profit that I work for. My convictions tell me how to live my life. They shape my daily decisions. Last summer I interned for a politician. Sometimes my political views differed from this congressman's, making it difficult for me to be passionate about working for him. This lack of passion was draining to me. The difference in convictions between the politician and I, even though I was supposed to be representing him & his convictions, was draining to me. I couldn't do it anymore. My convictions are so very important to me that if I have to fake them, if I have to alter my behaviour to align with someone else's convictions, I lose all passion. It makes me grumpy, and even angry. If I don't have my convictions, how am I supposed to live my life?
Without my convictions, I'd be floundering. What would I do for work? I have to have passion for my work in order to succeed. I cannot be indifferent about my work - that's exhausting. It's a waste of my time & talents. And what about how I take care of my body? My convictions keep me from eating too much junk food, and from avoiding fast food entirely. They keep me exercising, doing yoga and pilates, and treating my body with respect. My convictions keep me from doing drugs and drinking in excess with regularity. My friends would be completely different, as well. My convictions dictate what type of friends I keep and what type of friendships I nurture. I have disconnected from friends because they didn't represent my values when it comes to friendship. If it wasn't for these convictions, I would have love-less, disrespectful, and harmful friendships. My convictions keep me loved and loving.