So many of us want to grow and learn and make a positive impact in the world!
We long to do something with our lives and for the most part, we know that it starts with ourselves - we change the world by changing how we show up in the world and how we interact with the world.
But it can be so easy to fall down the rabbit hole of judgment!
And nothing stops our growth and our impact like judgment!
And that is because what we judge we can not understand!!
The minute that we say "He's a liberal" or "She's a conservative" is the moment that understands has ground to a halt!
(Or maybe a better example right now would be "He's a pro-vaxer"/"She's an anti-vaxer!")
And when we decide to place a label on someone or something we often do so with an undertone of approval or disapproval attached to it! And it becomes very difficult to understand the things (and people) that we disapprove of.
The whole idea of disapproval is that it is something foreign to you or outside of you. And we all know that is ripe and fertile ground for an "us against them" environment.
As human beings, we tend to react to things that are foreign to us or outside of us in 3 different ways:
The first way we can react is to quickly reject that person, their behavior, or their ideas. For many of us this means that we don’t want them around us, we don’t include them in our friend groups and if they are family we spend as little time with them as possible. They become the them to our us. When this get’s played out on a bigger stage we see countries going to war, we see racism, we see refugees with no place to go. And we begin to use language that vilifies and depersonalizes them until in the worst cases we are ok with their complete destruction. I know that sounds extreme but how many of us watch the news and see exactly this type of behavior.
The second way that we can react is by accepting the difference as long as it’s not brought to your awareness. It’s like saying “Ok it’s fine that we are different but I don’t want to hear about it and I don’t want to see it.” This happens when we go home for thanksgiving and we say “I’m just not going to talk to Uncle Bill about politics" or we say to our partner “Since we’re not married my parents are going to make us sleep in different rooms” even though you have been living together for years. It’s saying we are fine with people being gay but we would never be friends with them. The list goes on and on....
The third way we respond is by removing all the differences and saying, “Well we are all the same.” We saw this when Black Lives Matter came on the stage and asked us to see something we didn’t necessarily want to see...so many people responded with “Well, all lives matter.” And in removing the differences we remove anything that was uncomfortable and that we could have learned from.
Now if you respond in one of these three ways you will notice something very interesting, you’ll notice that in each way of responding you are right. In the first two, you are right and the other person is wrong. And in the third one, you’re both right. Oh, that ego is one tricky son of a gun lol!!
But there is a fourth way of responding. It's a difficult one but it will provide you with so much spiritual growth and such a rich and abundant life experience. And that is to look at things and to look at yourself through the lens of the other person - with such a deep curiosity that when you look back at your own behavior it looks strange to you.
Let me give you an example in a story that I heard:
There was a therapist that was going to go work in an Indigenous community. And when he arrived he looked at how they raised their children, the children ran from house to house acting as if each house was their own, they spent most of their time unsupervised and playing outside. When the kids misbehaved every adult felt the freedom to discipline them.
And the therapist thought - “Oh this is a huge problem. These kids are not grounded in their families, they lack connection with their mothers and fathers, they are allowed too much freedom and not enough structure” and on and on.
But the longer he stayed in the community and the more he got to know the people that lived there, he began to see the world through their lens until finally, he had some understanding.
And then when he looked back at his own community he thought “How strange it is that we live so isolated from each other, that we don’t allow the influence of other people to penetrate us, that we build so many fences and so many boundaries - perhaps that is why I have always felt so alone.”
This story is so impactful not because it glorifies one way of living over another, but because it causes us to look through more than just our own natural lens to see the world through another’s eyes and to allow what we see to pierce us and to cause us to grow!
So today ask yourself - which of these four ways of responding do I normally choose? And how would I become a more beneficial person in the world if I decided to remove my judgments and to see the world through the eyes of another the best that I could. How could I gain a more clear picture of reality if I also chose to see and accept my own strangeness as well?
Want to know more? Listen to The Art Of Being H(YOU)man Podcast - Episode 8 Accepting Other