A little over two months ago marked the 16th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting, Because of this, I recently remembered the “Rachel’s Challenge” presentations I was given back in middle school to promote her “chain reaction” of kindness. Her story touched me back then, and now as a college student, it has left an even stronger impression on me. I recently read her essay, “My Ethics, my Codes of Life.” I am constantly seeing my peers post statements on social media along the lines of “I don’t know who I am,” or, “I hate everything,” and, “My life is a shit show.” Sadly, I am completely guilty of doing this as well. However, I am confident that there IS a way to fix this late adolescent/early adulthood crisis, and it is by instilling our own ethical guidelines into each of our lives. I feel as if most of us believe that we already do have these values, but that is the problem. We THINK we have them. We definitely don’t really have them otherwise we would use them. We are a generation of unhappy, unsatisfied, lonely, and selfish individuals. We rely too much on the people around us to complete us. How can we possibly expect to find happiness and peace in our lives if we continuously put our expectations of happiness and peace into other people? We can’t. I have decided to compose my own, “My Ethics, my Codes of Life.” As Rachel Scott said in her concluding paragraph, I know that many of you may not share the same beliefs as I do, but if you consider them and consider other people’s, you might see the world as a different, and better place.
I’ve always thought that my ethics were an important part of my life; however, I am discovering that I really haven’t had any. Up until now, “my ethics” are the rules and opinions that my parents, teachers, friends, and other people have influenced upon me. This makes sense though. I am only 19 years old and have spent a majority of my life living in a predominately upper-middle class, white town where everyone is basically the same. Kids are spoiled while simultaneously being told what to do and want. While we may have disagreements and differences with our parents, we ultimately want and do what our parents think is best for us. I’m learning now that while this is a good thing, it also isn’t a good thing. I’ve only recently learned how to be my own person with my own interests and beliefs. I think it is so important to learn to be on your own whether it is emotionally separating from a family member, friend, or significant other. This is the only way to truly determine what YOU want and how YOU feel. While I am still unsure of what exactly I want, I know who I want to be, and I know what qualities I find to be important.
Confidence. Everyone has something to be confident in whether it is a personality trait, physical appearance, academic/athletic ability, or talent. These represent the good in the world, and the good that we should always try to find in people. Even the meanest people have something good about them, and even when they make you feel bad, it is important to remember that they too represent some good in the world and remember that they have felt bad too. Although this is cliché, you really don’t know a person’s past unless you have been with them through every experience they have ever encountered. (Which you haven’t) The most valuable lesson I learned in high school is that you can’t let anyone knock you down; we are all too worthy to be let down. One of my favorite quotes of all time is, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” This is such a powerful and true statement. I also think it is important to make other people feel confident about themselves. Compliment the outfit the girl next to you in class in wearing. Congratulate someone when they attain an accomplishment. You might make their day, or entire week.
Maturity. This is very difficult for most people to learn, but I think it is something that everyone values at some point in their lives. To me, maturity does not necessarily mean acting your age. I see it more as a person showing another person that they have their own values; they know what they want to do in life and how to achieve it. They are respectful of and accept other people’s values. They know how to go after something, but do it with kindness and without putting other people down. Honestly, I sometimes feel like such a hypocrite because I am so quick to judge someone for being “immature,” while in reality, I don’t think I’ve totally obtained maturity either. I think we need to start seeing each other as works in progress. We all have the capability to achieve maturity.
Honesty and Trust. I should probably mention now that I do not share the universal belief that honesty and trust go hand in hand. In fact, I think the total opposite. Just because someone is honest doesn’t mean that they are trustworthy, and just because someone lies doesn’t mean that they aren’t trustworthy. While both could be the case, I don’t think it is fair to feel this way. Unfortunately, I’ve been disappointed particularly within the past few months due to both of these traits. Like most of us, I have trusted people for stupid reasons and typically did it for my own benefit. The truth is, people are going to lie. People are going to tell the truth. People are going to tell the truth, but might not tell you the full story. So, are they lying? I don’t know. Especially when dealing with someone who you don’t know too well, we can’t know. I usually start trusting someone when they do or say something that makes me feel that they are someone I want to spend more time with. They might like the same bands that I like; they may come from a similar family background as me. We may share the same major. If a person makes me feel comfortable, I typically trust them. This may seem too easy, but I don’t see the point of someone proving their honesty to you in order to trust them. Chances are, they are going to lie at some point because that is our human nature. However, I feel that us being honest with ourselves is the key. First we need to know how we feel, and then we need to express how we feel. Sometimes, I think I have too many feelings. I get too angry, too sad, too excited, etc. I used to think that this was a bad thing, but why should I feel bad about showing my emotions? Isn’t that what we have them for? There is nothing I find more unattractive about a person than them not showing their feelings. If you think something is funny, LAUGH. If you think something is really sad, CRY. If you like something, SMILE. Don’t just stand there like a wall. We all have emotions, so we might as well use them. I’ve learned that when even just one person who displays a lot of emotion surrounds you, everyone else around them tends to do it too. This is because that person is being honest with him or herself. If you’re honest with yourself, other people will likely be honest with you.
Faith. By this, I do not mean a particular religion. I do not mean believing in God, Gods, or even witchcraft. I do think it is essential to believe in something though, whatever it is. The way I see it, we were all given a life for a reason, and I can’t help but think that the reason might be shown to us when our lives are over. Believe in something; I can assure you that it will get you through the day.
I think these qualities represent a good summation of my own codes of life. As words, they may seem typical, but my perspectives on them are possibly completely different from yours. If you actually took the time to read this entire thing, I commend you because you’re showing that you’re actually taking an interest to achieve your own versions of confidence, maturity, honesty, and faith. You CAN figure out who you are, you DON’T hate everything, and your life is NOT a shit show. I know that we all have the potential to show our good sides, and I think that if we do this, we really can make this world a more pleasurable one to live in.