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
“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.