I was never one of the “cool” crowd. I had lots of friends from every one of the defined social groups in high school, but I was never “cool.”
There were the theater and music folks and, since I did both, I knew most of them and partied with them from time to time, but was never part of the inner circle. I loved sports, so I knew a bunch of the jocks as well, but still—not my clique. I had a grade point average that should have put me in with the intellectual crowd, but I didn’t really hang with them either. In fact, I usually hid my grades from my friends because I didn’t want to hurt their feelings. Sometimes I hung out with the “freaks” even though I didn’t do drugs.
But why didn’t I pick one of these comfortable, exclusive clubs and join in?
Because I never wanted to be “cool”—it just wasn’t my style. Here’s what I saw the “cool” kids doing:
I just couldn’t get behind any of this stuff, so I just flitted across social and cultural lines and made friends with anyone I actually liked, regardless of their clique affiliation. I still do. Why wouldn’t I be friends with a black person, a white person, a Catholic, a Jew, a Mormon or an atheist?
To be tolerant of others, you sometimes have to be willing to stand up to your friends, which may even mean being “uncool.”
All of this begs the question, why is it “cool” to behave poorly towards others?
Look around and I think you will find that every bully has a crowd who laughs along with him when he’s being cruel. Every catty girl has a bevy of friends who believe each bad thing she spreads about others. Every boy who has ever trashed a girl’s reputation has a group of friends who egged him on and reveled in the trashing.
I have a theory. Human beings are social creatures, we love to fit in. We might even go along with things that we know in our heart to be wrong because we don’t want to get kicked out of our group. We might not feel brave enough to do something about it when faced with bad behavior from our friends. Harry Potter’s Professor Dumbledore has a great line on the subject: “There are all kinds of courage. It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.”
To be tolerant of others, you sometimes have to be willing to stand up to your friends, which may even mean being “uncool.” I’ve had to do this a number of times and it’s never comfortable but always worth it.
The next time you see someone trashing another’s religion, lifestyle, profession or other choices, be uncool. Be kind, caring and tolerant and don’t go along with it. You might just make another friend. And truly, if you don’t limit yourself to being in a “cool” clique, you will have lots more friends—the kind who will actually stand by you, no matter what.
Those are the kind of friends to have.
Those are cool friends!