When we get excited about something, we want to tell the world. We seek out like-minded individuals who share our passion for this thing that brings so much excitement to us. We want to encourage other people around us to be excited about this thing we are passionate about because we see how much it has changed our lives, and we believe it can change the lives of those around us. Sometimes our passion morphs into zealotry, and our sincere encouragement warps into judgmentalism.
When I was an active church member, I often heard evangelism (sharing the "Good News" of Christ) described as "one beggar telling another beggar where to find food." But very few Christians have that humble of an attitude. I've heard skepticism described as "stepping out of the cave and into the light," which is a nod to Plato's Cave Metaphor. I've used that analogy myself. But few self-described skeptics have that humble of an attitude. Instead of beggars receiving mercy or prisoners being led to freedom, we find crusaders armed for a holy war.
Before I go any further, I should qualify that I'm not one of those wishy-washy "neutral third party" folks who try to make both sides of a debate look equally bad in an attempt to make oneself look more "open-minded" and more enlightened than the hoi polloi and above all the drama. I can't stand those people. I used to be one of those people. Then I grew up.
Truth is, we usually just swap prejudices. We get excited about one thing, then when the excitement wears off or we no longer see or feel any utility from the thing, we replace it with some other thing. We're always looking to fulfill these four basic needs: certainty, uncertainty, significance, and connection. This list comes from Tony Robbins. I've mentioned it before. We long for a sense of stability and predictability (certainty), but not boredom and monotony, so we need a little surprise and/or excitement (uncertainty). Ultimately, we want to believe our lives have some sort of meaning and value (significance), and we are social creatures by nature, so we look for people with whom we can share and form bonds (connection). Every person wants these four things and tries to attain these four things - in varying degrees, of course, depending on the person. Look at Facebook. Why do people I haven't seen since 5th grade want me to know what they had for lunch today? Why do I keep posting my weekly weigh-ins on my Facebook profile?
There's nothing wrong with these motivations. Sure, I share my fitness goals with other people because I want to connect with other people who have similar health goals. I want a sense of purpose and value and significance that comes with making a positive change in my life. I know my self-worth isn't measured in how many "likes" I get, but it still feels good to know people think I'm awesome. I want to share this good thing I've discovered in my own life - my newfound lifestyle - with other people, so they might be able to experience the benefits I've received.
It's true: I've never felt better in my life. Sure, I still suffer from chronic pain. That part will never change. But, overall, and even considering my daily pain issues, I've never felt better. I'm way better now than I was even in my late teens and early 20s. I'm in better shape and feel better now overall than even in my tournament karate days of my youth. I'm living a healthy, productive lifestyle (certainty) that gives me goals to reach for and new heights to attain (uncertainty). Of course I want to tell people about it. I want to share the "good news" of my rebirth (connection). A baptism of sweat, a life spent in the refiner's fire of burning muscles. It's exciting and amazing (significance).
Intellectually, my life's goal has been to not merely swap one prejudice for another, but to let evidence and reason lead me as close as I can get to truth. I don't want to win any battles or debates, or score points for "my side." I simply want to learn and to grow. And I want to encourage other people to do the same, because I've experienced the benefits of what Socrates calls "the examined life." Similarly, I don't want my excitement and passion for living a healthy lifestyle to devolve into self-righteousness. My goal is a life of balance, both physically and psychologically, and attitudinally. I want to be a positive influence in the lives of those around me. I know each person has to make up her own mind and live her own life. I can't judge someone else because I can't put myself in that person's context. I can only encourage, support, and offer my perspective when I am asked.
That's not always an easy line to walk.