Written by Heather Hymas

I do not write an opinion column. I write an uplifting column. I attempt to do this through sharing my experiences, my trials, and the lessons I have learned.  Living a life with purpose is about finding your own value, seeing the value in others, and realizing that you are not alone. Our purpose on this planet is to connect with others and to help them to also feel valuable and loved. Having said that, I feel compelled this week to write an opinion column. Seems everywhere I turn these days, I see people disconnecting and judging others. This bothers me because as far as I can see, it all boils down to promoting what you love—being passionate about what you believe in—rather than bashing what you hate.

Live and let live.

It is a pretty simple concept really. If you don’t like something, don’t become engaged in it. Just don’t do it. If it doesn’t bring you joy or fit within your personal value system, then stay away from it. But do not criticize others choices or seek to take away their right to make them.

Personally, I do not partake in organized religion. I don’t believe it is necessary to be religious in order to be spiritual, to have a connection with God, to pray, and to live a good life filled with love.

I feel much more connected when I am out in nature than I do in a man-made building. I can live a life based on helping others and being of service in a multitude of other ways; I do not have to do it through organized religion. Therefore, I promote what I believe. I belong to a hiking group. I encourage others to get out and connect with nature. I share my experiences and my spirituality in other ways.

I do not go around to churches telling people that I think what they are doing is wrong or that my way is better. I don’t belittle or judge the way they find a connection or attempt to be of service. You see, even though I may see the inconsistencies and downfalls to certain religious practices, I can also see the positive aspects and the joy it brings to many. If something helps someone to feel connected and makes them want to be a better person, if it brings goodness or joy into their world, then acknowledge that.

I don’t have to agree with other people’s beliefs to respect them. You don’t have to agree with my beliefs to see the value in them. If someone put up a picture of a tree and said, “This is not God!” I would strongly disagree, but I wouldn’t be so offended that I felt the need to argue, call them out on it, put them down, or curse their existence. I would say to myself, Hmmm… they find value somewhere else. That is a difference we have, but the fact that we both value a connection with a higher power is good. That is what’s important.

Find your value wherever you see fit, but don’t disregard mine.

I am happy in my own skin. I love being a woman and all that goes with it. For whatever reason, I was born into a body and gender that feels right to me. But what if I wasn’t? What if I was miserable? What if I felt like a man trapped in a woman’s body? What if I walked around everyday feeling like I was a fraud—pretending to be something I was not? That negativity and discontent transfers to all of us. Who cares if Bruce Jenner feels better as a woman? Who does it hurt if he chooses to live as a woman? If he feels value and joy in being a woman, then go for it! When his happiness and personal value increases, it can only bring good into the world. If you don’t want to change your gender, then don’t, but allow others find their joy and purpose without judgment.

Live and let live.

I can already hear some people responding to this column with things like, “So If I want to burn down churches, cut up animals, or rape children, if that brings me joy or makes me feel valued than others should respect that, right?” That is an age-old, worn out argument that comes from very small and closed minds. Of course I’m not saying that. If someone is doing something harmful to others, if their actions degrade humanity or someone’s right to live without fear or pain, then obviously it doesn’t deserve respect. I believe most of us can agree on the things that are in this class: murder, oppression, discrimination, violence, abuse, etc. These things are just plain wrong, no matter what else you believe in. I am not talking about those things.

I am talking about the lifestyle choices and differences in beliefs that if you make them, do not affect me. Harsh judgments and negativity only create division between us as human beings of value. All of us have the same value and deserve the same respect no matter what underwear I choose to wear, what religion I connect with, what gender I choose to be, what I consider a family, whom I choose to love and spend my life with, what food I eat, what exercises I do, what I consider art or beauty, and where I find peace and joy. If it isn’t about you—if it doesn’t match up with your belief system—so what? You only deserve the freedom and respect you afford to others.

Live and let live.

Go out and find your truth, your value, and your joy—whatever that may be—and then be passionate about it, promote it to the world, share it, and shine your light. Live.

But when you come across others promoting their passion and their truth, and it is different from yours, don’t bash it. Don’t judge. Don’t spread negativity and hate. Don’t look at the differences and decide you need to make one right and one wrong. Let live.

Give others the right and the respect to find their own truth and joy, or else we all lose the right to do so.