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The Self and Feeling Safe

Asking the Hard Questions

Is Feeling Safe Selfish?

Safe spaces in a critic-ridden world

https://www.zinnedproject.org/news/tdih/jackson-woolworth-sit-in/

Call me old-fashioned but the last time I said, “Wow, I learned so much from an easy, unchallenging, and happy experience” was… Never. Martin Luther King Jr. once said,

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy”.

Challenge and controversary knock on one’s doorstep in many ways whether it be through a person, situation, action, or thought. The moments that we grow the most are the most trying, challenging times in our lives. I quote MLK not just because he is one of the most progressive, revolutionary leaders in America’s time, I refer to him because this man lived a very uncomfortable life where he denied himself for justice.

Just look at the pictures of African-Americans, still and strong, as those around them pour food on their heads, mock to their faces, and attempt to provoke them to fight. They didn’t. They took it, even though they were uncomfortable. Even though they probably felt unsafe.

Imagine a place where you can freely flow any of your ideas without objection or challenge. Common daily discussions are abundant with agreement and praise for the way you think. Also, this place allows you to feel right and gives you the impression that you can never be wrong. Everyone in this place is the same.

Well, you don’t have to imagine. Nowadays, these places consist of like-minded people where they can express their ideas to people who already believe in those ideas: Safe spaces. Most abundant on college campuses, these rooms are designed to, “provide a break from judgment, unsolicited opinions, and having to explain yourself. It also allows people to feel supported and respected”[1]. No criticism, no backlash, no intense discussions or debates. What a breath of fresh air.

In the past decade, American society has magnified the focus on the self: Your individual feelings, wants, desires, and beliefs are of the utmost importance and those around you do not have the right to question or call attention to any flaws in your argument. Self-esteem is everyone’s highest priority. Heck, your local neighborhood dad is going easy on his boy in baseball, so the boy feels good about himself.

What has caused the switch into society to glorify the self more than giving up one’s life for another. MLK said himself: “Freedom has always been an expensive thing. History is fit testimony to the fact that freedom is rarely gained without sacrifice and self-denial”. We are so unwilling to deny ourselves that now we lash at anyone who forces us to think intensively or think critically.

Today we see students criticizing professors for saying the student’s explanation was incorrect: “I didn’t feel safe when he told me I was wrong, I couldn’t learn.” In order to grow our minds and be introduced to new ideas, we need to be disrupted sometimes. Through disruption, one learns to listen and process information that is coming at them a thousand miles per hour.

Even if the opposing side is aggressive and bombastic, we need to learn to make sound defenses in a way that speaks louder through logic and rational, not with noise. If you just add on to the clamor and interruption you create white noise. How else will we learn what we believe and what we don’t believe if there is not someone to introduce us to the other side of the argument?

Before we assume something about the critic let us peacefully come to them, aiming to understand. If society continues on an individual-focused path, there will be no more regard, care, or interest in the other. All people have equal value, and therefore their ideas merit tolerance.

This does not mean you need to agree with them, but just listen. This goes for both sides of the argument. The diner sit-ins during the Civil Rights movement proved to us that change can be made by just sitting and taking the heat.

[1] https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/safe-spaces-college#2


The Self and Feeling Safe was originally published in ILLUMINATION on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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