Tag Archives: respect

When Does Different Mean Better?

We all know someone who views the world differently than we do, don’t we? There is always someone in every group who tends to be the funny one, the sensitive one, the logical one, the illogical one, or something else that differentiates them. Does the fact that they are different, in whatever way they are different, matter? It takes everyone to make the world go around, as the saying goes, yet the news is full of people fighting each other because of differences, so is being different good or bad?

It is human nature to notice the differences between others and ourselves. From a sociological standpoint, it is quite clearly demonstrated demographically, geographically, culturally, and otherwise. Having grown up in Europe, lived in different parts of the US, and traveled rather extensively around the world, I may view the world a bit differently than many. That experience has taught me, not only about the differences in people around the world, but I believe more importantly, about the similarities.

quo_gandhiWhen we notice differences, and if we then create an “us versus them” mindset, we foster a competitive, and potentially alienating environment. When all we see are differences, and when those differences are viewed as “bad” or “wrong,” it is impossible to create an environment of trust and goodwill. Clearly there are some beliefs and political systems around the world that are difficult for us to agree with or even comprehend. But this isn’t about that. How do we, as the kind and generous people we are, live our lives genuinely and joyfully? Think about people you know, and think about what you know about them that differs from you. Then think about what you and they have in common. Which makes you feel more connected with them?

We have all felt joy, pain, sorrow, adoration, anger, jealousy, and more. We all love our children and want them to be happy and healthy. We all want to feel valued and to be treated with respect. Our blood is red, and we need food and water and shelter. From Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, we know that we all share the same needs. The difference is where we are in the hierarchy. The truth is, we have much more in common with each other than differences that drive us apart. What might happen if we all concentrated on the things that we have in common, those things that connect us all? When we realize that we share more than just the air we breathe, that we share feelings and dreams and needs, then we can begin to feel more connected, more a part of the good that we share. Once we embrace that, the possibilities are endless. How cool is that?

In the Eye of the Beholder

Have you heard the expression, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder?” Many of us have heard that one, as well as, “You can’t tell a book by its cover.” Both expressions have something to do with the fact that what we see with our eyes is subjective or filtered in some way, by our own opinions or beliefs or ideals. For example, some people don’t like the color green, while others don’t see “green” the same way you do, and they may not even be colorblind.

When you are in a discussion with someone about a particular topic and it becomes clear that you are both seeing the same situation differently, what comes to mind or how does that make you feel? I know some people who are so set in their ways and feel so strongly about their own beliefs and opinions that it is nearly impossible for them to even consider someone else’s point of view. I have great compassion for them, because I think they are missing out on learning and growing and actually becoming happier people. Wouldn’t it be awful to be so boxed in to a set of ideas that you felt alone because you couldn’t, or wouldn’t, see others’ points of view?

A word I use often is “perception,” because it is important to our understanding of the world, and more specifically, of our own world. When you observe something, is your observation the truth? When you hear a story, do your interpret that story the same way someone else does? When you hear music or look at a painting, do you hear or see what your neighbor hears or sees? It isn’t a matter of who or what is right. The way you perceive something is your truth, and the way the others perceive something is their truth.

Lord Thomas Dewar said, “Minds are like parachutes; they only function when open.”  If it could be possible that there might even be the slightest difference in perception and ones truth, would it make sense to compare, to share the experience with another while keeping an open mind? By doing so, you just might broaden your own view, and at the same time, you might just broaden the horizon and view of the other person, too. How cool is that?