Growing up in a conservative homeschool setting, the world was black and white. Things were simple. The outside world was dangerous, but we believed as long as we followed the rules, we would be safe.

My first break from this environment was my first job as an ice cream counter girl at 14 years old. I got to see some of the worst of humanity since I was effectively doing a lot of customer service, but I also got to see some of the best.

Sure, there were people who couldn’t be pleased, who would complain about anything and everything. But there also people who were hellbent on spreading love to everyone they came across, including the soft-spoken ice cream scooper behind the counter.

As I aged, my experiences with the outside world grew. At 16, I started college and came face to face with people who were belligerent and hateful towards me because of my faith. People I had always been warned about.

But there were also some who asked genuine questions and wanted to learn.

I saw that, while some of them were well and truly monsters who were intent on destroying the faith and hope of every human being they encountered, others were simply lost and hurting.

I encountered people who took my innocence to be a challenge and constantly bullied and harassed me. But I also had people who stood by me and protected me during these times too.

My journey continued when I began blogging after the birth of my son. The worst of humanity comes out when people hide behind the anonymity of a keyboard.

I’ll confess to having a difficult time navigating the best and the worst of humanity. In the process of witnessing it all, I’ve found myself growing recalcitrant and weary. So much so that I have removed myself almost entirely from online communities at multiple points.

I’ve learned that humans are complex, and often times, we don’t even recognize what is truly in our hearts. Things aren’t as simple as good people and bad people. We often don’t know why we do and say the things we do, because we haven’t been honest with ourselves about who we are.

Choosing to reflect on our thought and actions is far from easy and it takes strength to face your own inner demons. That’s why I think many people don’t and end up embodying the worst side of humanity.

The thing I have held onto that has helped me the most in thinking about and dealing with people is that I believe that every person is made in the image of God. I’ve learned that everyone is the same in so far as we all start out in the same place and need the same thing.

At the heart of humanity for me is the idea that each person has inherent worth and is deserving of respect and compassion, even when it means not enabling bad behavior.

Because at the end of the day, we all need to be truly loved, whether we deserve it or not.

21-year-old Oklahoma native Rebecca Lemke has been published on the Federalist, To Love, Honor and Vacuum, Huffington Post, Homeschoolers Anonymous, The Relationship Blogger, ARCWrites, TrueAgape, Beautifully Connected, Ann Miszczak and more. She has made many guest appearances on live radio and podcasts to discuss spiritual abuse and legalism. Rebecca does public speaking on these same topics in addition to other mental health topics. She is also a contributor to Iron Ladies and holds the 2015 Best Performance of the Year award in the national competition held at thepublicblogger. Her published work includes a book on purity culture, The Scarlet Virgins, and a fiction book, The Shadow Queen. She has a podcast called The Scarlet Virgins Podcast associated with her nonfiction book that can be found at scarletvirgins.com or rebeccalemke.com.

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