Even though Christmas has already passed, it’s still not too late to give a gift that will keep on giving all through the new year.

The best part is this gift will cost nothing in actual dollars. On the other hand, it may cost you dearly in other ways. But then again, what good is a gift that costs you nothing?

The gift I’m describing is giving people the freedom to be themselves and not be controlled by us or others. It’s letting them have their own beliefs, styles, and actions without demanding that everyone be identical to us. We all have this problem, myself included. We all tend to believe our way is the only correct way.

That’s not to say that some things aren’t better or preferable to others, only that we should let people make many of their own choices without trying to force ours on them. I don’t want others to force their beliefs on me, so I probably shouldn’t force mine on them.

If you’re like me (you’re probably not) you’ve noticed this type of intolerance getting out of control lately. You can see it in everything from how we should care for our pets, to how long we should wait before we venture out onto the ice in the winter. People seem to be constantly meddling in other people’s business and often calling the authorities if they don’t like what they see. They may defend themselves by saying they’re trying to do what’s right, but really they are just trying to control others and force them to be like themselves.

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This is especially apparent with the arrival of COVID-19. Everyone - including government, media, health care, drug companies and our neighbor - seems to be jumping on the bandwagon trying to use fear to get their piece of the control. Of course, the reality is there really is no way to control the disease at this point, we just have to ride it out. We don’t have a practical way to stop it, so everything we do is mostly for show.

The government control with COVID-19 is bad enough, especially since it is often done arbitrarily and without authority. However, it’s when it degenerates into people trying to control each other that you have a real problem. So now we have the situation where the dubious practice of wearing masks has turned into a moral issue: “I wear a mask so I am a good person, you don’t, so you are bad.” It will probably be the same with getting vaccinated. In the end, it’s all about guilt, fear, manipulation and control.

None of this is to say everyone should be able to do whatever they want at any time. Obviously, their needs to be some government control and social expectations for society to work well. But we’ve long ago passed that point and moved into interfering in places we don’t have any business and then trying to get the government to back us.

Although I have no tolerance for this kind of governmental interference, I can try to be more tolerant of other people being different than me. I know it’s hard - it’s hard for me too. I want everyone to dress like I do (without a mask), listen to the same music as I do and have the same political and religious beliefs. But I can’t force them to.

No matter how much we try, none of us - not even the government - can ever really control others. We might think we are, but it never really works for long. All we can really do is control ourselves. That’s what I’m going to try to do more. Who’s with me?

“It’s Our Turn” is a weekly column that rotates among members of the Echo Press editorial staff.