Do people become more prejudiced as they age?

I recently unfollowed* a number of my friends on Facebook. Why? Because I was finding their posts to be more and more disturbing. 

These are friends who are all about my age and who used to be loving individuals. They were kind, respectful, tolerant, and forgiving. However, as they’ve grown older, they seem to be losing those qualities. They are more and more likely to express dislike or even hatred for one person or a group of people.

Some of these friends not only express their opinions, they try to back them up with false, misleading, and inflammatory information. That’s where I really have to draw the line. I normally don’t comment on such posts, but in one recent case where the poster included erroneous statistics about illegal aliens, I couldn’t help but responding.

Of course, the fact that this is a presidential election year  — and that our current president exhibits these same tendencies — doesn’t help. Before you assume my political leaning, however, I need add that I am disturbed by derogatory comments, regardless of who they’re coming from, and who they support or don’t support.

I read somewhere that as people age their brains change in a way that makes them less able to hide their prejudices.

Of course, that’s a cynical view of people in general. The thought that most of us are hiding our true selves and behaving in a hypocritical manner is somewhat disturbing.

I think this problem may also stem from the fact that people feel more and more helpless and afraid as they age. They’re no longer making progress in their lives. They’ve stopped believing they can achieve what they want. They believe that their dreams will never be realized, and they feel trapped and helpless. Instead of looking at themselves to find the cause of their failures, they find fault in everything around them.

Of course, this isn’t limited to the elderly, but it certainly becomes more and more pronounced in people as they age.

I can understand to a point. I’ve had some of these same feelings – the feeling that I’m too old to achieve anything great – that I’m trapped by my failures of the past – that my physical and mental health prevents me from accomplishing anything of importance.

To be certain, we all eventually reach a point in our mortal life where we can no longer function or contribute. For some, it can happen long before they die. For others, it doesn’t happen until the moment of death.

When that moment is reached, some of us lose hope and become bitter, while others continue to be hopeful and are able to find peace and joy.

This leads to a spiritual side of the picture. Many of us profess to believe in an eternal progression that applies to our Spirits, which eventually become paired with our resurrected, immortal bodies. This is a comforting thought. However, no one currently alive has a complete understanding of this, and very few believe it 100%. The results is varying degrees of hopelessness as our bodies age or become less functional for other reasons.

I don’t have good answers for these issues. The best solution for myself is to constantly train my mind to look for the positive rather than the negative, and to continually act in a positive manner as much as possible. To be sure, I fail at times. But I think this is the only way to find real joy in this life, especially as our bodies fail us.

I asked Susan if I am becoming like my Facebook friends. After all, unfollowing them could be a sign of my own growing intolerance and lack of respect.

Of course, she was kind enough enough to say “no”. I suspect, however, that I have changed as well over the years. I just hope that I never lose the ability to not only show kindness, respect, tolerance, and forgiveness to all – friend and foe alike, but to actually be those things from deep inside my being.

 

* Note: “unfollow” is not the same as “unfriend” in Facebook land; unfriending would be more severe.

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