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When you find yourself in the middle

When you find yourself in the middle

The last couple of weeks have ended up busier than expected, so I’m sharing some of my favorite posts from the archives. With the election heating up, this seems like an especially appropriate post this week!

On most divisive issues—politics, health, parenting, food, vaccines—I tend to fall somewhere in the middle.

For a long time, I’ve felt alone in this middle space. The people at the ends are loud (and let’s face it, often obnoxious). They talk about the issue more, yell louder, and often criticize those of us who refuse to “choose a side.”

Despite what the people on both ends of the spectrum seem to think, though, living in the middle doesn’t mean I’m wishy-washy or that I lack conviction. It doesn’t mean that I don’t believe in objective truth or that I’m unwilling to stand up for my beliefs.

But I think we try to apply Truth-with-a-capital-T to a lot of subjects that don’t deserve that label, based on our personal thoughts, beliefs, experiences and convictions.

Living in the middle means that:

  • I prefer to listen and hear what other people think, believe and know on a topic. (This despite the number of times I got in trouble for talking too much in elementary school.)
  • I value the right of others to have their own opinion.
  • I believe it’s worth considering what others have to say and not just dismissing them because their beliefs or opinions are different than mine.
  • I think experience plays a huge role in our opinions, and I want to know what experiences have led someone to their conclusions.

It seems to me that the ends of the spectrum tend to be where people dig in their heels and stop really considering the issues, afraid that if they move even an inch, they’ll lose the whole foundation of their argument.

But what I’ve realized over the past year or so—especially as I admit more often that the middle is where I fall—is that those of us in this space aren’t really the minority after all. In fact, I’m starting to think we’re actually the majority. Even though the people at the extremes (on any topic) are so much louder and would like us to think that there are only two choices, there’s a pretty big middle ground. And it turns out that a lot of us are comfortable there.

My conclusion is this: those of us in the middle need to speak out more often…not to add to the noise but to remind others that there are more than two options and that you can have strong beliefs and still respect the people who hold different opinions.

Do you find yourself in the middle? Have you ever felt alienated and afraid to speak up because you don’t identify with either “side” of a debate?