Most of us readily pay lip service to the fact that we should accept differences between people. But how much do we really accept those who are different from us in some fundamental way?
Ebony and ivory live together in perfect harmony
Side by side on my piano keyboard
Oh Lord, why don’t we?
– Paul McCartney
Join me in asking ourselves honestly, in the privacy of our own mind and heart, whether we truly accept the following groups of people without in some way judging them as being wrong.
1. Those with a different sexuality
Homosexuality is controversial in many parts of the world. Many religions still proclaim it wrong, and many countries still outlaw the homosexual act. Can you accept it if your son comes home one day with a boyfriend?
When I was in the military they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one.
– Epitaph of Leonard P Matlovich
Today we also judge people who decide to self- identify with the opposite gender. Yet the western concept of male and female is binary, and other cultures embrace gender fluidity much more.
2. Those who hold different beliefs
We often judge others to be ‘wrong’ when they hold beliefs different from us. This include beliefs about religion, or science, or human nature in general. When is the last time you made a genuine effort to understand someone with a different belief system from yours? Can you concede that they may have a kernel of truth you don’t possess?
“The ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function is the sign of a truly intelligent person.” – F Scott Fitzgerald
3. Those from different cultures
With more people living and working outside their own countries and culture, the difficulties of adjusting to a different culture are increasingly apparent today. It can be challenging to accept that others have a different way of doing things, and that your way is not necessarily the best way.
“Much of the violence that humanity suffers in our times is rooted in misunderstanding as well as in the rejection of the values and identity of foreign cultures.” – Pope John Paul II
4. Those with different personalities
On a more personal level, do you accept those with different personality types from yours? If you are a driven choleric, do you find a laid-back person lazy?
“Ask someone to give a description of the personality type which he finds most despicable, most unbearable and hateful, and most impossible to get along with, and he will produce a description of his own repressed characteristics – a self-description which is utterly unconscious and which therefore always and everywhere tortures him as he receives its effect from the other person. These very qualities are so unacceptable to him precisely because they represent his own repressed side; only that which we cannot accept within ourselves do we find impossible to live with in others.” – Edward Whitmont
5. Our gender opposites
Closer to home, can you accept that your spouse or partner is different from you? Can you truly accept this and see them for who they are instead of who you want them to be?
“A woman means by unselfishness chiefly taking trouble for others; a man means not giving trouble to others. Thus each sex regards the other as basically selfish.” – C S Lewis
How to accept those who are different
Accepting those who are different means not judging them or trying to change them. We will accept them more easily when we realise that ours is not always the best way. We have to stop thinking we are right and they are wrong. It is a lifetime’s work, but we can start now.
11 replies on “Accept Those Who Are Different”
No need to apologise. Your comment made me think as you made very good points. I agree that ‘live and let live’ and agreeing that there is a kernel of truth in something you disagree with are two different attitudes of mind. It goes back to Fitzgerald’s quote about the ability to hold two opposing thoughts in your mind at the same time, to believe that you are right, but that the other guy may also be right.
Still, it is a paradox as you pointed out. We have to choose one way to think, one belief that guides our actions as individuals, while at the same time leaving room in our minds for other possible ways of thinking. Sometimes I just tell myself that if I had been born to a different family, in a different country, at a different time, then I would believe totally different ‘truths’ and be equally convinced that I was right too. Making the effort to step out of our individual little world is not easy, but certainly forces us to understand that every “I” represents only one dot in eternity and there are so many other dots that make up the whole.
Not sure if this is making any sense.
Seeing the new first family up on stage definitely showed me how far we’ve come in a short time, though the hurt and disappointment of my gay and lesbian friends reminded me of how far we have to go. Then, this one milestone certainly makes me more optimistic for others sooner than we might think.
I would like to agree wholeheartedly with all that you say here, though I get somewhat snagged on “beliefs,” as so many belief systems are in stark conflict with acceptance of other belief systems, other cultures, and, as you point out, different sexuality. Certainly, when talking to a fundamentalist who believes literally in a cruel, egotistical father figure who condemns those who don’t endlessly sing his praises to eternal torment, I can try to understand where such hateful beliefs come from. And I can do the same for those who believe those who don’t share their beliefs deserve to be killed (though I’ll try to do so from a distance). As such, I might become more compassionate towards those who have so little compassion for a heretic or infidel like me, which would be a good thing, and I can certainly accept them in the sense that I’ll do my best to live and let live, but I don’t know if that’s the same thing as finding a kernel of truth in such beliefs (as I don’t know how one can find truth in bigotry without becoming bigoted, which, of course, gets rather paradoxical).
Most spiritually minded people I know tend toward a universalist viewpoint, which, it seems to me, treats the religious beliefs of the world as if they are all, essentially, different flavors of universalism. I think that ignores just how much of the world’s spirituality consists of belief systems that are rigidly fundamentalist, misogynistic, homophobic, and intolerant of other beliefs.
Sorry to drop a kernel of negativity into your comments. Please believe that I do so because I would really like to agree with you completely, but find I end up in this paradox when I really think about it….
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I hope you don’t mind but I’ve copied your comment to the Change The World? Yes We Can! thread and replied to it there.
Hi Daphne, hats off to u for your breathtakingly thought-provoking and richly suggestive post ” Change the world, Yes, We can” ! And what timing, girl ! That side, the historic win was declared and this side your article !! How fast can u write – I am amazed .
And yes, I too got goosebumps and tears, as many times as mr Obama said ” Yes, We Can” . There was that authenticity,humility, determination with ease in his eyes and voice.
I salute American People – proved they understand what it means to say that change is the only thing permanent .
My take : Not only History has been made ( a Black President for the first time ); but History has also repeated itself, as usual and that is the history of ever-free human spirit making history through iconoclastic changes on various fronts – social, political, scientific and spiritual !!
YES, WE, THE HUMAN RACE, CAN CHANGE THE WORLD !!!
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Hello Richard, glad you dropped by and left a comment. Yes it’s very hard to accept others, and I have to constantly remind myself.
Tamsin, Obama gave an awesome speech. I’m not American and even I was moved and got goosebumps! Yes this election has galvanised the world. Let’s hope the next 5 years are better!
Truly an insighful read. Yes, indeed can we truly accept differences in others. That is something that we need to ask ourselves.
Thanks Daphne – it’s no surprise we agree!
WOW what a night with the elections. I was watching in the UK at 4 this morning when they made the announcements. I’ve just Twittered that Obama’s speech was incredible – a second Mandela in the making. McCain’s full of integrity in loss. They’ve just defined a new brand of politics – and the impact of this result will be felt not only in the US, but all around the world. An amazing moment.
What amazing, exciting times! Have a great day.
Thanks for your wonderful comment. I think I learn as much from your comments as I do writing the posts! You’re right that ignorance is the cause of much hatred and fear all around the world.
Hey, glad to find out that you too think the concepts of right and wrong are over-rated. It took me many years to think through this, and come to the same conclusion as you. The Voltaire quote is a good reminder.
The focus on different posts for different days is an effort to keep myself and readers sane by having some sort of pattern, to guide my research and writing, and let people know what they can expect, rather than get a random jack-in-the-box surprise everyday! Your endorsement means a great deal, so I know it’s the right direction to go.
I am also eagerly awaiting the election results…
What a great post Daphne and such a timely reminder on what could turn out to be an historic day for US elections. It’s frightening to think how it was only such a short time ago that even the idea of a black president would have been unthinkable. Thank goodness we are living in different times, and I hope there will come a day when people are simply respected and accepted for who they are regardless of race, gender, sexuality, beliefs, etc. Spending part of each year in Cape Town, (which is known as the pink capital by some) I have many gay friends, and yet some of my UK friends don’t know any gay people so, for some (luckily a v small minority), they find that hard to understand. That’s no one’s fault, indeed it’s often a case of ignorance or fear of the unknown.
Also, I think people’s lack of acceptance can be routed in a belief that there is a definitive right or wrong, good or bad way to behave, act or be, which I don’t go along with. For me, there are no definitive values and beliefs suffice those you create for yourself, thus no one can disprove that their values and beliefs are any more worthwhile than mine. Sure there are clearly values which are more acceptable to society than others, but that doesn’t make them compulsory.
I agree very much with the French author and philosopher Voltaire’s view when he said “I may disagree violently with your opinions, but I shall defend to the death your right to express them”.
On a different note, I love your idea of concentrating on posting different reflections on different days. I can see that Tuesday’s are definitely going to be a must for me!
Right, I’m off to watch some election coverage!
All the best