Lately, Husband and I have discussed acceptance a lot. I’m not sure what exactly is sparking our conversations, but it’s got me thinking. We all crave acceptance, but are so frugal when it comes to accepting others. Most of our friends are just like us…they have the same beliefs, likes, hobbies, style etc. It makes sense, right? We want to spend time with people who share similar interests, but are we rejecting people who aren’t enough like us? I know that growing up I was guilty of being very judgmental. I am sure I thought I wasn’t, but looking back I realize I judged almost everyone and probably missed out on some great friendships because of this flaw.
Now, as an adult, I like to think that I am much more open-minded. Traveling the globe has definitely forced me to not only get to know people completely different from myself, but it taught me to genuinely love these people. What’s that quote from Ender’s Game?
In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him. I think it’s impossible to really understand somebody, what they want, what they believe, and not love them the way they love themselves. -Orson Scott Card
There is so much truth in this quote. Husband and I were raised by parents with very different personalities and parenting styles, my girlfriends are so different from his guy friends and we have both been forced to get to know these important people in each other’s lives on a deep level. We learned that our families and friends may be different, but they love us just the same. We now have very good friends from social circles we never hung-out in before, from countries we were lucky enough to visit and from the different places we have lived. Ten or fifteen years ago I would have been too stubborn, shy and critical to taken to the time to really get to know these people. Now, I love them and couldn’t imagine my life without so many different types of people in it.
Recently, I have had conversations with friends who felt uncomfortable and even angry at some new people they were somewhat being forced to spend time with…one friend is extremely environmental and hippy-esqe, the other is very religious. The first, very green friend, feels so strongly about her good earth-saving habits that she has no tolerance for people who don’t give two figs about conserving or saving or Earth. The second, church devoted friend, is uncomfortable around acquaintances who do not share her beliefs.
I understood where each friend was coming from, we all feel on edge around people who think differently from us, but I wanted them to know that the benefits far outweigh those uncomfortable moments. The best way to do this was to start discussing the big differences between the two of us. Turns out, there are a lot of major differences between me and a close friend… She never wastes water, I take ridiculously long hot baths. She loves all things big and small, I want every single bug squished. She believes one religion, I believe another. She cooks real food everyday, I cook frozen foods everyday. She cherishes her naps and books, I cherish my insane moments with Shaun T. She is morally opposed to Taylor Swift, I shamelessly know every word to every one of her poppy lovey-dovey songs. Turns out that I am not so similar to even my close friends.
Anyways, once we got our differences out in the open (and yeah we discussed more serious topics than Taylor Swift), we then talked about why? Why do we behave this why? Where do these habits come from? What shaped us and made us these practically grown-up people? And, WOW. What I learned from these conversations and from the many conversations with all my new friends, is that we are all doing our best to be the best people we know how to be. Some of who we are is from how we are raised, some is from our education, some if from our closest friends and some is from the experiences we’ve had thus far. So, the quote holds true, once we truly understand someone, we cannot help but love them.
The experiences that have had the biggest influence on me are when I learned to love someone who before I never considered liking.
I said at the beginning of the post that “as an adult I like to think that I am much more open-minded”, and the truth is that I am a little more open-minded, but I still judge the heck out of people, what they wear, what they eat, what they like, what they say, and so much more. (TODAY, I caught myself instantly judging a whole group of teachers in the faculty lounge.) However, the difference is that I
have learned am learning to look past those judgements and to the real people with real stories. While getting to know them, I hope that they get to know me too, because I know I have many reasons to be judged as well.
I challenge you to step out of your comfort zone this week and get to know someone you don’t hangout with…maybe a co-worker, an in-law, your hair dresser, anyone really. Find someone who is unlike you and allow them to share their story. I guarantee you’ll both get something awesome out of it!
Can’t wait to hear how this goes!