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‘Any fool can know. The point is to understand.’ (Albert Einstein)
Phew, the world needs more understanding doesn’t it. It seems as if intolerance is growing or am I imagining it?
‘Anger and intolerance are the enemies of correct understanding.’ (Mahatma Gandhi)
Wouldn’t the world be a much kinder place if we tried to put ourselves in other people’s shoes from time to time. It’s easy to judge but more difficult to pause and reflect on the actions of others. Judging separates us but understanding makes us grow. The point is you never know when you might need the understanding of others, so do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
The world is a glorious patchwork of diverse people living lives that might be profoundly different from ours. It’s important to rally against the tendency to think about people as either ‘us’ or ‘them’ as it can be a slippery slope downhill from there.
Yes, you are different from me in some ways. Vive la difference! But we are also similar in many others. The sameness is what makes us human. We all have hopes and dreams. We feel pain, want to be loved, be happy and healthy. Our shared humanity underlies everything about us. Who doesn’t get scared, feel hopeless, sad and defeated at times? I know I have. It helps to remember that despite our differences, at our core we are also the same and equally deserving of happiness and respect.
It’s a natural human tendency to like people who are like us, but we often learn more from those who are different. Differences challenge us, make us grow and encourage new ways of thinking. It’s our differences that make us unique and interesting but it’s these very things that can make us fearful of each other.
If someone doesn’t look like me, talk like me or think like me, it can make me anxious. If someone has different beliefs from me, on some level it could feel like my beliefs are wrong. The more people validate my beliefs and way of life, the more secure I can feel that my way is right.
If we take that attitude over to the dark side, it can wander into the territory of me wanting to force you to believe what I believe. In a weird way, the more insecure I am, the more likely I am to want to force other people to agree with me, to reinforce my own beliefs. Someone who is truly secure about themselves and their way of life has no interest in forcing others to believe in the same things as them.
Let’s pause and reflect on our shared humanity instead, the things that bind us together and not what separates us.
‘Seek first to understand and then to be understood.’ (Stephen Covey)