Do you call soft drinks soda? Pop? Coke? All different names to mean the same things but if you didn’t have a can right in front of you, you might not realize that you all had a commonality. Often times we focus on the differences in our words that even consider what we share and while that is a small example, we are finding more and more need to look for common ground, to listen and to hear than to shut down and divide.
Today our intent is to explore a different perspective. We want to stop seeing others and their differing opinions as wrong first, and instead consider how their actions are motivated. We want to be open and teachable. We want to be bridge builders instead of wall builders. We invite you to be the same. Here are 3 things to help you with your intent: Continue reading →
Life has its way of bringing us into contact with people who challenge us with their differences.
We tend to gravitate toward people who are the most like us, at least in the ways that make us feel comfortable. But life has its way of bringing us into contact with people who challenge us with their differences. It may be an obvious difference reflected in their outward appearance or an invisible but powerful philosophical stance, but even in our closest circle of friends and family, there are those that confront us with their different ways of experiencing and expressing life. We can choose to resist , but we can also choose to learn from them and appreciate that they too have a place in the kaleidoscope of life.
As much as we may say that we want peace and quiet and a life without struggle, the truth is that human beings are, at this time, thriving in a world of dualities and challenges. It is how we choose to approach these hurdles that determine if we sail over them, confirming our agility, or trip and end up face down in the dust. And each of us absolutely will and must stumble, and then get up, brush the dust off and carry on. This is how we learn and grow, developing depth of character and shades of understanding. In a world of dualities, we have trouble defining ourselves without something opposite, and can’t discover who we are. Without challenge, there is nothing to do and nothing to discover. That leaves us either in a state of non-being or the state of pure spirit, but as humans, we are spiritual beings experiencing the physical world in all of its startling contrast and beauty.
No matter how spiritual we are, our lives will have challenges. We will always run into people that are different that we are, but the true challenge may be in finding ways to be at peace with this process. Rather than give in to the fight or flight response that comes from our animal nature, we can find new ways to evolve together into higher more beautiful expressions of ourselves, realizing, embracing and celebrating the beauty of diversity and the strength it offers for the future.
I’d really like the world to change. In my lifetime, I would really like to see so many things happen that are currently stalemated by intolerance, bigotry, and ignorance. But I know that any change I’d like to see has to start with me. So I’d like to start by finding common ground and sharing it with others.
I think that essentially we must find the wisdom to respect one another and the differences that we have if we will ever be able to find our similarities. We each have different paths, different purposes, different traditions, and we are all at different stages of consciousness. Once we can accept that fact about one another, realizing that not everyone has to agree with us on everything in order for us to connect on anything, we will start to find harmony in our existence.
You cannot say to the Mona Lisa and Whistler’s Grandmother, “You are both paintings. You are both of women. You should really look the same. Change your colors. Change your images.” They cannot do that. They are the way they are for a reason. They
are from different artists. They have different purposes. They elicit different emotions and find people at different stages of consciousness.
So it is with each of us. We cannot expect anyone to align directly with us if they have been painted by another artist. Each of us is from different cultures, different countries, different religions, different households, and different skin. None of us have the same path. Even biological twins have different personalities. It is a beautiful thing that we are all so different and combine to make such an eclectic portrait of humanity.
It is exciting to see the acceptance of diversity grow in this country and around the world. It is exciting to finally see us reaching the level of emotional and social maturity where we can respect the outlooks of another even though they are completely contrary to our own.
Each of us embrace different cultural idioms. Each of us identify with different societal norms. Each of us have our own favorite films for entirely different reasons. Each of us, even those of us who sit side by side on the same pew, have a different understanding of God. Once we realize that, respecting the fact that everyone has his own precious perspective, we will be more efficient in finding common ground. For although we will always have our differences we will also always have our similarities. And though our differences should be appreciated, it is our similarities which bring us connection.
Our differences are only connections which do not exist. Think about that. The things that we spend so much energy on, arguing, bickering, fighting, warring, conniving, and hating don’t even exist. What would happen to the world if we were to put that much energy into the connections that do exist? What astounding triumphs could we reach If we would realize one another’s goals as our own, allow the differences to be there, and simply strive toward the goal we know would bring us joy?
One of the things about interacting with people that I learned long ago is that all people don’t think like me. I know, I too was shocked. But it’s true. People think differently.
Everyone knows this but the problem is that most people don’t know how to use this knowledge in everyday life. We’re so busy trying to get our daily activities done that we frequently do not have the time or inclination to accommodate or even consider alternative priorities of our coworkers, friends or even or spouses.
Clearly, the most documented example of alternate points of view is the difference between men and women. Thanks to Dr. John Grey’s bestselling book “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” we know that women think differently than men and the two sexes need to learn to accept and support the differences. I’ve found that, just the process of accepting the fact that women think differently than me and that it’s OK, is a huge step in the right direction.
But the differences, obviously, are not limited to men and women. The dichotomy of thought and priority between different cultures, religions, races, occupations, etc. is fantastic and differences of opinion are quite common and expected. In fact, this pluralism is always good for institutions and, ultimately, society. It can be easy to imagine the stress and strain that goes on between a sales and an accounting department. The goals of both offices are opposite of each other. Sales wants to focus on the fast movement of product or services to the client while accounting wants movement of the same product to be controlled and deliberate. Both organizations are right yet both have differing missions.
The key is to allow the other person to have their priorities and viewpoints and not to be offended by them. Seek to understand the differences so that you can accommodate them while you are fulfilling your own needs. Don’t be wrapped up in the discussions of viewpoints that you may not agree with or even understand but take the person’s word for it that their issues are important to them. Eventually, you may know the needs of the other person so well that you will anticipate them and, consequently, give them consideration automatically.
After all, isn’t it really the differences between us all that are intriguing anyway?