Have you ever wondered why we are so afraid of something different from ourselves? It seems fear is the default emotion for things we do not understand or are not comfortable with. This fear of what we do not understand is dangerous. It leads to judgement and hate and divisiveness, which is why we should engage our fear rather than fear it.
One definition of fear:
I have observed that when we encounter a person or situation that is different from us we tend to judge. Comments such as “that’s weird!” or “why do they act like that?” are made. Yet, there does not seem to be any thought given to why we make those comments. Let’s say you see someone walking down the street with purple hair or lots of piercings. If you do not have purple hair or lots of piercings you may make a critical comment about their appearance.
Stop for a moment and reflect on why you are being critical. Is it because you don’t dress like that? Is it because people who do tend to have different values than you? Is it because you would not have the confidence to go outside the norm like they do? This questioning is important because being critical of someone means we believe they are wrong in some way. It leads to deciding whether we think someone is good or bad, worthwhile or worthless when what we are really doing is expressing our opinion about a fashion statement.
An analogy I use with my clients in regards to opinions is the use of color. I will ask them to tell me their favorite color…let’s say blue. I will then ask them to tell me what they think about when they see the color blue and how they feel. They may say blue reminds them of the ocean and the beach is their happy place so they feel relaxed. I will then play devil’s advocate and say the color blue reminds me of water and I almost drowned once (not really) so I don’t like blue. It makes me anxious. I then ask them which of us is right. Is blue a pretty color or ugly color? They usually say, neither. It’s a matter of opinion. And, they are right. The color blue has not changed. Only our thoughts about the color has changed.
So, if we apply this thinking to others who appear different, we realize these individuals are simply, individuals. Our thoughts do not make them good or bad. Our thoughts only cloud our opportunity to understand how others view the world. In fact, we may find that we actually agree on more things than we disagree. (We just wouldn’t dress the way they do)! Maybe, these people have something to teach us about other ways to think. Sometimes we forget that our way is not the only way. Perhaps there is a more interesting way. If we took time to talk to those people and get to know them, we may find out we have the beginning of a beautiful friendship. As Maya Angelou so eloquently expresses in her poem Human Family, “We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.”