Albert Einstein wrote:

“Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age 18.”

According to The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary:
A) Prejudice is an opinion, like or dislike, formed before one has adequate knowledge.
B) Opinion is judgment not founded on complete knowledge; views, beliefs, of a group, what the majority of people think.
C) Opinionated is obstinate in one’s opinions, dogmatic.

While The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines:
A) Prejudice: preconceived opinion, bias.
B) Opinion: judgment or belief based on grounds short of proof: views or sentiments, especially on moral questions, prevalent among people in general.
C)Opinionated: self willed.

And finally according to Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary:
A) Prejudice: an irrational attitude of hostility directed against an individual, a group, a race, or their supposed character.
B) Opinion: a generally held view, belief about a particular matter stronger than an impression and less strong than positive knowledge.
C) Opinionated: unduly adhering to one’s own opinion or to preconceived notion.

When you grow up in a closed community it is natural to fall prey to some prejudice in order to be part of the norm. By the time you are an adult you already have these preconceived ideas about almost everything around you. Because of that opinionated culture, you become one with your environment and your community and hence you belong. Try to deviate from the norm in the slightest and you risk being cast an outsider.

I grew up in one such tightly-knit community. Even though our town was small, it had three schools. As in every society we had our stereotypes. The school I went to was the best, that’s what everybody said. I did lots of community work while growing up. I was a scout leader, I played basketball and attended Sunday school first as a student and later as a teacher. I met all kinds of people, some interesting enough for me to befriend but apprehensively, due to the fear of being an outcast by my circle of friends. There was this notion that our school was the best, which discouraged fraternization with other schools. Even though my father often told me “don’t let anyone influence you, or convince you to do something you feel is not right,” still I was hesitant. Sometimes I did not know what I feared, what I desired. So I let things be as they were and went with the norm.

It all changed when I left the village and went to the city Beirut, to attend university. I came home during weekends and as before I continued with my volunteer work. At first I didn’t notice anything different. I eventually realized that my “friends” were giving me a cold shoulder. I felt something was not right and for the first time it felt awkward to be with them. But I still continued my work until one day in spring, during a basketball game, I was put to the test and was not passed the ball even once. I still didn’t give the incident any thought until the end of the game when I spoke with my best friend about it and she confirmed saying she had heard the captain saying “don’t give her the ball”. I was mad at first. Why were people so prejudiced, so opinionated against each other? I did not know what I feared or what I desired at that particular moment, whether I wanted to belong or travel my own path. Were peoples’ opinions or judgments more important than my dreams, my life? But as Fyodor Dostoyevsky wrote:

“To go wrong in one’s own way is better than to go right in someone else’s.”

Eventually I followed my heart and my dreams, not without sadness, as it meant giving up my community work.

“It’s not given to people to judge what’s right or wrong. People have eternally been mistaken and will be mistaken, and in nothing more than in what they consider right and wrong.” – Leo Tolstoy


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