When I was a social worker, the issue of black-or-white thinking often arose. Black-or-white thinking, or splitting, is an all-or-nothing way of looking at our world and those around us, and it is a common trait of many mental illnesses. We see ourselves or others as “all good” or “all bad’ and forget that most of life is lived in the gray areas.

Lately, it seems we, as a society, are doing an awful lot of splitting. One way it shows is in the labels we slap on everyone and everything around us: liberal or conservative, Christian or atheist, right or wrong, fat or skinny, smart or stupid, epic or fail, with no room for anything in between. We are lashing out at our fellow man, and if we’re not outraged about something, we are apathetic, stupid, or worse. You get the idea.

As unique human beings, we owe it to ourselves to take a look at how we react to the world around us and how we deal with our inevitable differences. Can we see points from both sides of an issue, or do we blindly follow one doctrine and one only?

When did we become so judgmental and righteous? Have we lost our ability for critical thinking, respect and tolerance? Are we too anxious, depressed or frightened to even listen to an opposing view? Are we as a society becoming mentally ill?

Of course, we all have our own ideas and beliefs about how things are and should be; but it’s the extreme rigidity of black-or-white, all-or-nothing, no-room-for-any-gray that disturbs me. This is how we get into trouble. As a society, let’s take a step back and try to open our minds and hearts. We don’t have to agree, but we must consider the grays.

Sandra Messier, Madison

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