“In nature there is no alienation. Everything belongs.” – Dent Ming-Dao
Walking the trails in Bend, Oregon, I’m in awe of the symbiotic relationship that exists between its native creatures. Bees, ants, hummingbirds, blue jays, quails, chipmunks, squirrels, and even coyote, and cougars — whether viewed as predator or prey, these amazing animals figure out how to coexist. Of course, I hope to never see a cougar or coyote when I’m alone, but I respect their right to be. They belong.
This makes me wonder. Why do humans eff up so badly when it comes to getting along? How come we make others feel as if they are not welcome? Group think suggests that when someone supports ideas we don’t agree to, they are wrong. They don’t belong. You might be saying, “I’m not like that. I’m kind and compassionate. I include everyone.” Yes, initially I had the same reaction. But if we are honest with ourselves, my guess is we’ve been overly judgmental—especially during the past 16 months. I know I have.
Maybe your tone was softer, claiming that you’re staying in your lane, hanging only with like-minded people, avoiding the difficult conversations, keeping safe. But no matter how we disguise it, it’s separation with an undertone of good/bad and right/wrong. It’s dividing, and this behavior is damaging to all. As an opinionated person, I’ve struggled with being true to myself, especially when I am around people who think differently than I do. It’s tough, uncomfortable, and challenging to refrain from disagreeing, having internal snarky comments, and feeling as though my views are correct and theirs are not. Sometimes it can go beyond that. I can label others, make it a “me vs. them” situation.
Not only have I been faced with controversy during conversations, but I’ve also felt this dilemma when writing blogs. I’ve tried to walk a straight line and not offend anyone. More than once, I’ve compromised myself by being gray when I wanted to be to be black or white regarding a particular topic. But I felt the pressure to portray a neutral position, to stay safe. Then a conversation with my younger son coupled with a book I’m reading about dharma helped me see that I was not being authentic in my blogging. I’d compromised, focused on the likes, stayed on the PC path to protect myself. Even though I’ve worked hard to stop pleasing others in my life, I’d held onto my need to please my readers.
After taking some time to process this, I realized that by trying to write within the lines, I was not being honest with who I am or the message I hope to relay. While I have no intention to become controversial or politically charged, I must be true to myself and with you. After all, I hope you read these blogs to get a perspective, not a regurgitated, sugar-coated missive. And if I have any chance of providing an ounce of inspiration, my blogs must have substance, not repeat quotes and posts which populate social media.
Each one of us deserves a place in our world: you, me, your best friend. the estranged family member, even the neighbors across the street who incite fury with the political signs they place in their yard. We are all God’s creatures, and everyone possesses divine energy. That’s what makes our world magnificent—it is inhabited by people, who like snowflakes, are unique. There’s no denying each person’s individualistic attributes and challenges can be attractive or off-putting. Still, despite cultural belief, no one is perfect, and no one is evil. Regardless of how we might appear to others, we all possess strengths and weaknesses. And remember why we’re here — to experience life, navigate its trials and tribulations. Not to get it right or earn a gold star.
Perhaps life has been easy for you, or maybe it has been anything but. As we advance through Earth School’s curriculum, some of us appear to shine, progressing quickly through the courses, seemingly earning straight A’s. Or we could be the ones who struggle. A lot. Maybe we must repeat lessons and fail to pass the final exams. Then there’s the chance we’ve signed up for a ton this time around, agreed to face challenges that make others quivers. That explains why life is so damn hard.
Our life circumstances shape our belief systems. And just because someone does not think or act as we do does not mean that they are wrong and do not belong. In fact, you and I might have very different views on a variety of topics. Who knows? Humans are very gifted at assuming what’s happening inside another’s mind. And we’ve become masters at judging those around us, based on what we see, hear, or assume. Lately, we all seem to be so critical, especially of those who think differently than we do. It’s made me wonder—when did diversity of thought become a free pass to judge another?
Could it be that finding fault with others is simply a natural human reaction? We do it to those we love—and those we have little compassion for—mostly because they are not like us. Or perhaps we fear the aspects of our own negativity we witness in them. Hmmm. I admit I can be critical. At the time I may feel justified for my comment. But later, well, I usually feel shitty because I know I’m better than that. It’s when I pause to reflect that I can see how my ego took over, silencing my kinder higher self. Still, that’s no excuse.
Why do we engage in judging?
Holding others to our standards instead of accepting they may have belief systems that are not in alignment with ours, hurts them and us. When we judge another, we see them as separate. But that is not true. We are all connected, even though we may fail to see that bond. And now, more than ever, we need to unite as a society, not alienate ourselves from those who think differently.
What makes another’s views wrong and ours right? When did we become so intolerant?
While more and more people are becoming educated and aware of the necessity to eliminate racism and judgment due to religious belief, sexual orientation, or lifestyle choice, we seem to have missed the boat when it comes to how we treat others whose beliefs do not jive with ours. Whether a friend, family member, or acquaintance has differing thoughts about politics, the environment, social welfare, healthcare, or even the vaccine, we do not need to condemn them as wrong or ignorant. Don’t we each have a right to our opinion? And if we are truly the caring and educated human beings we claim to be, shouldn’t we practice tolerance instead of judgment when we encounter people with diverse views? I know this is a question I’m asking myself a lot lately.
Recently, a friend made several faulty assumptions about me. At first, I felt judged and debated if I should speak up regarding my beliefs. But then I weighed the pros and cons and ultimately chose to remain quiet. It may have felt good to use my voice, but it also might have caused her embarrassment or affected how she views me. I decided our relationship meant more to me than the need to speak my peace. So, I let it go. Still, I left that interaction feeling unsettled, unseen, and judged.
Later, this conversation caused me to wonder if I do the same to others. Do I assume that my friends, and family think as I do? Reluctantly, I realized the answer was a definite yes. Like many, I prefer to believe those in my circle hold the same truths as I do. But, of course, they don’t. And it really should not matter. Won’t relationships with people possessing diverse opinions enhance our life? Besides, a person’s viewpoints should not be the basis for associations. I believe it’s our true essence, the light within, that connect us. I want to care about others because of who they are, not what they believe. And I hope for the same in return.
Considering alternative perspectives is what allows us to grow. It doesn’t mean we change our position on a subject. But it does help us realize how limited our outlook can be. Multiple feelings exist on every issue, so why are we the ones who are right, making everyone else wrong? If we want to live in a harmonious world, we must cease casting judgment on people whose opinions differ from ours. Just as I should not care whether you prefer strawberry ice cream or mint chocolate chip, you shouldn’t be worried about my thoughts regarding the Middle East or abortion. And I shouldn’t want to spend time with you because of who you voted for in the past election, nor should you seek my company merely because we support the same cause. Commonality is great and can be a conduit to healthy relationships, but it should not be a requirement for getting along.
Labeling people with dissimilar mindsets only causes division and alienation. And unfortunately, sometimes it doesn’t stop with a label. It’s become too commonplace to assume that if one person believes ABC then they also think XYZ, which makes him or her dangerous. This type of thinking is not only wrong, but it also harmful. It creates exclusion at a time we need inclusion. Of course, there are moments when we desire open discussions or even feel the need to vent our frustrations with like-minded individuals. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. In fact, I believe it is healthy, when done appropriately, without labels or the frequently attached hatred that often accompanies the names we use to group others.
The problem occurs when we only interact with those in “our camp”. If we refuse to consider other possibilities exist without determining them as “bad”, we cause separation from one another. And now, more than ever, we need to have compassion, not focus on our differences.
But how do we stop judging? What can we do to allow others to follow their own path, even if the destination seems so very different from ours?
If we can be aware and catch ourselves when we become critical, then we can identify where and how we are judging those around us. This is an important first step because it helps us see triggers.
Next, we grant ourselves a moment to pause. Instead of making a comment or casting a label on another, we take a breath and acknowledge that their actions or words are merely different than ours. That’s it—we don’t identify this as right/wrong, good/ bad—just different. Remember, we have no idea where others come from and what experiences shaped their opinions. Who knows, perhaps this is all necessary for their life’s journey.
It’s only when we refrain from judging that we can begin to become curious about situations and people, invite wonder, and perhaps learn to accept. This is where the magic happens. It’s the moment we leave behind our biases and see another for who he or she is without judgment. It’s when we identify the sweet connection between us. While we may act or think completely differently from this person, there is no denying that at our core, we all want the same thing … love and acceptance for who we are. Of course, our path to achieve what we desire is where the differences occur. But try to let that go. Instead, focus on the similarities.
No matter who we are, we all belong. Our diversity in race, culture, religions, sexuality, and opinion is what makes us strong. If we can witness others’ uniqueness and accept what is, then this tolerance gradually becomes acceptance … ultimately leading to love. That is what makes earth so wonderful—it is not inhabited by cookie cutter versions of ourselves. Seriously, how boring would that be?
“If you judge people, you don’t have time to love them.” – Mother Teresa
Let go of judgment. Allow others to be as they are. While we may not feel in alignment to their words and actions, know each one of us is on our unique journey, requiring separate, perhaps even unrecognizable paths at times. Embrace those who think differently. Learn from them. Accept them as they show up. Allow them to be who they are. This is not always easy, but what important life lesson ever is? My guess is that we may even surprise ourselves as we discover our similarities overshadow our disparities. And while we may not alter our views, there is always the possibility that interacting with another who sees the world differently will expand our sight, permitting us to envision possibilities we never knew existed.