“I was raised not to look at people racially. What I was taught is that we’re flowers in the Great Spirit’s garden. We share a common root, and the root is Mother Earth. The garden is beautiful because it has different colors in it, and those colors represent different traditions and cultural backgrounds.” – Spirittalk.net
Native Americans are well-known for their beliefs about the sacredness of nature. Their folklore and traditional customs inspires one to see the holiness in the spirit of everything around us. This instils a deep sense of reverence for Mother Nature into the natives. According to them, everything is an expression of the divine and all truth can be found in nature.
Imagine if we extend this way of seeing the world to include the entire human race.
We would treat every person that we come into contact with a basic level respect and kindness.
We would show more concern towards others in need and be more willing to lend a helping hand.
We would be more understanding and accepting of the differences in others.
If everyone on the planet showed this kind of tolerance towards each other, there would be a lot more harmony and peace than there is in the world’s current state of affairs. I believe that all the tension in our world is imbued by clashing ideologies and people’s inability to accept the unique viewpoints of other races, culture or religions.
The truth is that all forms of discrimination come from a place of fear. Intolerance is caused by the fear of a loss of power, which creates an overwhelming need to control others with what one believes to be true. Like any other belief system, myopic views on diversity are influenced by early conditioning.
If you grew up in a small town that was socially and racially homogenous and you were taught to be cautious of people who were different from you, you would be more prone to being prejudiced. On the other hand if you grew up in a diverse locality with parents who encouraged you to mingle with everyone, you would be more open to embracing others who are different from you.
Whenever I find myself slipping into a judgmental mindset, I think of one of my favorite quotes by Shakespeare, which says, “Nothing is good or bad but thinking makes it so.” It instantly reminds me that there is no right or wrong way of seeing (or doing) things. The world is essentially a neutral place and we give it meaning based on the interpretations we choose.
Although I stand by my personal beliefs and ethics, I try to remain open to seeing the truth in what others think. I take on the role of an explorer and allow myself to be fascinated by how the unique configuration of a person’s personal traits, family background, culture, schooling, and life experiences shapes their unique perspective.
If you face any resistance while doing this, you can be sure that you are being triggered by a shadow aspect of your personality. Exploring your shadow self can provide invaluable clues about the parts of you that need healing, and is essential if we want to have healthier relationships.
By gaining awareness about our own “stuff”, we become more conscious of how we may be projecting our insecurities and judgments onto others. When we clear our minds and hearts, we open the doorway for more understanding in our interactions.
This does not imply that we become pushovers and accept bad behavior from others. We still have to be discerning about whom we allow into our life, but if they are not causing any harm and staying within the boundaries of ethical behavior, we need to be conscious of any judgments that we have about them.
Besides learning about hidden aspects of our psyche and background, here are other reasons why we should be open to understanding the differences in others:
- You’ll learn new things and make better decisions: They say that everyone you meet can teach you something new. When we are curious about others and ask the right questions, we can learn a lot of interesting things. You never know, you might get a spark of inspiration or a brilliant insight from someone when you least expect it.
- You’ll make more interesting friends: When we come from a non-judgmental place, other people can sense it and will be naturally drawn to you. This results in you building a more eclectic network of friends from different backgrounds. The internet makes it a whole lot easier for us to access all kinds of online groups and communities where we can meet a diverse array of people.
- You’ll be a more progressive person: Our world is becoming an increasingly smaller and cohesive unit because of the Internet and the ease of travel. Our global diaspora is filled with a population of individuals with increasingly complex layers and textures to their cultural identity. By becoming more sensitive to these shifts, we stay on trend with the progression of our global culture.
- You’ll feel better: Whenever we experience any form of resistance or hatred towards another group of individuals, we are engaging in a lower vibration of energy. When we overcome this resistance, we feel lighter, happier, and give ourselves more opportunity to experience joy and satisfaction.
- You’ll make the world a better place: When you demonstrate more understanding and tolerance towards others, you are making a positive contribution towards the collective consciousness. We are in deep need for individuals to spread the word and be role models to younger generations so that we can promote peaceful and amicable relationships between our communities.
So the next time you are people-watching, take the time to observe the people who are passing by. Notice everything about them – their mannerisms, clothes, facial features, color, and appreciate whatever it is that makes them different from you. Acknowledge their exoticness as an expression of the beautiful and rich diversity that we have been blessed with on this incredible planet.
All my best on your journey,
Question for you: What has been the main challenge for you whenever you have tried to accept other peoples differences? What does this say about your values and personality?
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For proof that rejection, exclusion, and acceptance are central to our lives, look no farther than the living room, says Nathan Dewall, a psychologist at the University of Kentucky. “If you turn on the television set, and watch any reality TV program, most of them are about rejection and acceptance,” he says. The reason, DeWall says, is that acceptance—in romantic relationships, from friends, even from strangers—is absolutely fundamental to humans.
In a new paper published in Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, DeWall and coauthor Brad J. Bushman of Ohio State University review recent psychological research on social acceptance and rejection. “Although psychologists have been interested in close relationships and what happens when those relationships go awry for a very long time, it’s only been about 15 yrs that psychologists have been doing this work on exclusion and rejection,” DeWall says. The results have highlighted how central acceptance is to our lives.
DeWall thinks belonging to a group was probably helpful to our ancestors. We have weak claws, little fur, and long childhoods; living in a group helped early humans survive harsh environments. Because of that, being part of a group still helps people feel safe and protected, even when walls and clothing have made it easier for one man to be an island entire of himself.
But acceptance has an evil twin: rejection. Being rejected is bad for your health. “People who feel isolated and lonely and excluded tend to have poor physical health,” DeWall says. They don’t sleep well, their immune systems sputter, and they even tend to die sooner than people who are surrounded by others who care about them.
Being excluded is also associated with poor mental health, and exclusion and mental health problems can join together in a destructive loop. People with depression may face exclusion more often because of the symptoms of their disorder—and being rejected makes them more depressed, DeWall says. People with social anxiety navigate their world constantly worried about being socially rejected. A feeling of exclusion can also contribute to suicide.
Exclusion isn’t just a problem for the person who suffers it, either; it can disrupt society at large, DeWall says. People who have been excluded often lash out against others. In experiments, they give people much more hot sauce than they can stand, blast strangers with intense noise, and give destructive evaluations of prospective job candidates. Rejection can even contribute to violence. An analysis of 15 school shooters found that all but two had been socially rejected.
It’s important to know how to cope with rejection. First of all, “We should assume that everyone is going to experience rejection on a semi-regular basis throughout their life,” DeWall says. It’s impossible to go through your entire life with everyone being nice to you all the time. When you are rejected or excluded, he says, the best way to deal with it is to seek out other sources of friendship or acceptance. “A lot of times, people keep these things to themselves because they’re embarrassed or they don’t think it’s that big of a deal,” he says. But our bodies respond to rejection like they do to physical pain; the pain should be taken seriously, and it’s fine to seek out support. “When people feel lonely, or when people feel excluded or rejected, these are things they can talk about,” he says.