Accepting Differences

We are drawn together by our commonalities but learn from our differences. It is far too easy to think others experience life the same way we do or to see their differences as wrong or threatening, for difference often engenders suspicion and fear. If we look within we are all as different as we are alike. From fashion to the creation of laws we create a sense of expected norms, often where they are not needed. What might happen if we accepted our differences? What makes it so vital for us to be the same when sameness is an illusion?

In reality, all aspects of ourselves lie on a continuum. The variance of some differences is readily apparent, as the difference in height. While, other variations are harder to see, like personality or culture. The problem comes not from lack of sameness but in our attaching false values to differences. I happen to have dyslexia, which makes reading and writing to be a challenge for me, however adapting and working around this attribute has strengthened me. While teaching at a University, I heard professors correlate poor spelling to a lack of intelligence, rather than seeing it merely as a difference.

We do not need to throw away of judgment about all differences? No, that would be an impossible task. However, the first step might be to increase our awareness of judging others for things that do not affect us. Ask yourself, how does the way another person appearance affect me? Can you look beyond skin color and clothing to see the person? Or how does it injure me if others have different tastes in food, music, or expression? Accepting these external difference may open your mind to see people as they are rather than as you wish they were.

Once we open our minds to differences, we may see personal variations that are more profound than surface differences. Can we accept that others may have differences in who they love and how they express love? Some people clammer to be social after a long day at work, while others have an equal drive for solitude. When we begin to look more deeply, we must be aware of our desire to rank attributes making some desirable and others problematic.

So what are we to do? We can get to know people and allow them to teach us about themselves, which requires asking more and assuming less about others. To make it safe enough to know someone we must present as little judgment as we can while being aware our prejudices will rear their ugly heads. We must understand not only how people present themselves but also what people believe, and perhaps the reasoning behind their beliefs. We need to see the fear within ourselves and others that drive stereotypes and erroneous judgments. Maybe when we can accept others, we can also be allowed to be ourselves.

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