The attack on the Muslim girl outside a mosque in Virginia last weekend left me saddened as I considered that around the world, people will always be judged for the differences in their beliefs and their appearance. Unfortunately, that judgement (on both the side of the judger and those being judged) can trigger extreme negative responses in people – extreme enough for murder, hate crimes, and terrorism to result.
This blog isn’t meant to be a place where I share my political views, but rather it is meant to be a place where people can come to shake off the worries of their worlds and find rest and rejuvenation.
So rather than dwelling on the negatives that we see in our world on a daily basis, why don’t we focus on the positives. How can we celebrate humanity’s differences, rather than condemn them?
Here are a few reasons why I think you should choose to look for the good in people, regardless of how different they are to you, or whether you disagree with their lifestyles or choices:
The diversity of humanity is worth celebrating.
There are over seven billion people on this planet, and no two people are the same – even identical twins have different personalities and interests!
Your DNA, the location of your birth, the people you met along the road of your life, and your personality, all affect who you have become today, and who you will continue to become until the day you die. The same is true for each other person on this earth.
When you think about it, that’s wild! We are all so different, yet completely intertwined with our environment and the people around us.
“Different” ≠ “better” or “worse”, but “differences” = “necessary”.
Though others will always have differing traditions, opinions, and lifestyles to your own, that doesn’t necessarily mean that that makes them morally (or physically, or intellectually…) “better” or “worse” than you.
It is, however, a good thing that you have those differences.
If everyone were the same, imagine what that would be like – cue the intro music to a very boring dystopia where everyone has the same style of hair, clothing, and word choice. Not only would this be a total snooze-fest, but there are only so many people in one community that can have your job, not to mention your sense of humor. Think of what that would do to your sense of individuality and self-worth!
If you still aren’t convinced, instead of thinking of a world full of “you’s”, think of a world full of “your dad’s”, or “your corniest high school teacher’s”. Please, God, no!
Differences are good. We desperately need them for a functional society.
And their weakness shall be their strength.
What on first glance seems like someone’s weakness may turn out to be something that gives them strength in certain situations. For example, if a person is an introvert and seems to get lost in a large crowd, more extroverted individuals may consider this person to be weak.
Put that introvert in front of a blank page, however, and my guess is that he or she will have something valuable to share – just not in the context of directly addressing a crowd. Many introverts spend more time in introspective thought, and therefore have a deeper understanding of what makes the world tick. Extroverts of the world can learn from this!
I find that the strongest, most efficient teams are the ones that have a wide variety of personalities and perspectives on it. Everyone has something to bring to the table, which can help the team get outside the box when working towards their collective goals.
So don’t sweat it if you are terrible at public speaking. You are more than likely excellent at something else that someone else is terrible at.
Empathy: minding the gap.
Trying to see life, or even just a situation, from another person’s perspective helps you to empathize with that person, and to develop a deeper understanding for who they are and their way of life. Empathy helps to bridge gaps between people and helps people to find that they are really more similar than they thought, but perhaps in surprising ways.
At our cores, we are all human, and all have the most basic human needs and instincts.
Imagine what it would be like to have a mental illness where you have full access to your usual thoughts, but you can’t seem to translate them into action without things coming out jumbled and garbled. How would that affect your day? Would you have trouble making new friends, or even making a meal to feed yourself?
I would imagine that would be incredibly frustrating, and I would probably want to release that frustration. So, the next time you encounter someone with a mental illness and you see them “acting out” or doing something “bizarre”, remember this practice of putting yourself in their shoes, and show some empathy!
Whatever you do, remember that humanity – every member of the human race – has value. No matter what tears us apart, we will always be able to connect with each other on the most basic levels.
Each of us desires some semblance of dignity and a sense of belonging. When you scoff at someone for their differences, you are taking away from these two very important things, which breeds anger, fear, loneliness, and humiliation.
On the other hand, celebrating our differences, as well as the things we find in common, fosters a sense of dignity and belonging, and encourages solidarity and community.
So go ahead and celebrate how different you and your friends are!