There is a broad way and then there’s a narrow one. Those who demonstrate big mindedness are more apt to tolerate differences in others. While people who insist on a narrow band of behaviors are easily irritated by variations.
The reason for mentioning this is because it’s helpful to know how we deal with difference. Superficially, most everyone seems to feel they are tolerant and accepting within reason. Yet, as you know only too well, frequent displays of narrow-mindedness are a daily event.
Whilst some prefer living that way, the “it’s my way or the highway” mindset paves a lonely road. For together we are a pretty mixed bag in terms of our preferences. So, in a sense, variation is to be expected.
From what I can tell, people who allow more variety in behavior seem to be more likely to experience happiness more often (as if acceptance has a pivotal part to play in feeling okay about ourselves).
Meanwhile, those who roll their eyes at the slightest wardrobe error, verbal mix up, or failure in logic, end up in a tougher world. For surely in the process they conscript themselves into becoming judge and jury. Given, you have to take a superior position to look down on others, the pressure to perform in all ways correctly makes life tougher. No wonder critical people find happiness so hard!
Then again, acceptance of difference isn’t always easy, is it? Meet someone in the street in the midst of a florid psychiatric episode and it can be very unsettling experience.
Maybe you need to speak with someone who, according to what you’re used to at least, looks plainly strange. For manners sake, you might try to be polite. But inside your anxiety levels might be spiraling out of control, as you feel yourself distressed by their presence.
These immediate reactions are primitive and without consideration, reflecting our preconceptions and fears about people. Yet if we can find common ground in our shared humanity, difference suddenly starts taking a distant second place.
Quite apart from helping you cope in strange situations, a wider way of thinking sends out a warmer message. We don’t need to disapprove of others to know who we are and what we believe. Instead, we can take a mental note of what we encounter and remember what actually matters: that we are all human beings.
Provided someone isn’t actively threatening you there is no need to reject them. You might choose to spend time with somebody else, which is fair enough. But accepting the validity of others is a milestone in increasing your openness and it enhances your own sense of self-acceptance.
With a wider appreciation of difference, we can shift a lot of big obstacles out of the way. Better yet, we can increase the likelihood that we too can be more comfortable in our own skin.
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