Dominant differences

IDEALIST ALERT: below is content of an exceptionally idealistic nature. If such things upset you, I suggest looking away now.

GRAMMAR ALERT: Appalling grammar will follow within this post. I am working on it with my mother. Apologies.

It puzzles me, how much we focus on our differences. I say we as I am certainly not immune to this. Is it a survival of the fittest thing? A fear thing? A safety thing? It seems to me that the society we live in, is dominated by the things that divide us. This has been the same throughout history. I was wondering, is it really such an impossible idea that we might put similarities, hopes, dreams and a desire to find common ground at the forefront of our minds when meeting new people?

It is so easy to be uncomfortable around someone we don’t see eye to eye with. How do I communicate effectively with someone who thinks I am, to put it politely, an idiot in the most extreme sense of the word? In my mind a good starting point is to ground the other in humanity. Who are they, where are they from, what was their upbringing, who are their parents/siblings/children? There are similarities.

Now, please, do not misunderstand me. I do not believe it is possible to be friends with everyone in the world! There are certain people that we are  unlikely to ever really hang out with. People who basically drive us up the wall, into a state of infuriated despair, or pure disbelief at the bizarre words and ideas flowing from their mouth. The question I have is, why, when we cross paths with someone we do not get on with, can we not behave with love and grace rather than rejection, anger or disdain?

I am a fan of quoting films/books/random things I have seen, and I feel it is time to get a bit of Dumbledore out. No matter what happens, Dumbledore always pursues love of his enemy (once he was grown up of course, we learnt in the last book….. sorry, back to the point). He always encouraged Harry to see Lord Voldemort as a human. This most evil, and wicked of men. When about to be killed he spoke to Draco Malfoy, with love and affection, encouraged him. I know this is just a book. But

This is also a very biblical concept. Jesus said ‘Father forgive them, they know not what they do’ whilst being executed. We are encouraged to love our ‘enemies’ but sometimes our enemies are our enemies on a much smaller scale.

Difference, in my mind, is to be valued. We are told that we are all made in the image of God. Therefore, when you look at someone who you fundamentally disagree with, you will see something of God. God is clearly more diverse than we can imagine. With 7 billion people alive now, and obviously many more counting all those throughout history, there is a LOT of God to be seen.

I am an idealist. I hate the world as it is and I believe it needs to change, to change it we have to envision a better world. I am not living in the illusion that it will happen in my lifetime but if I can have an influence, no matter how small, on the world around me to encourage us to communicate then I am satisfied.

I do struggle when I disagree with people. I KNOW I am right, obviously, but sometimes I have to put aside my pride and accept that I may be wrong. I may have misheard, misunderstood, misrepresented, or I may just think in an opposite direction to the person I am talking to.

However, if I ground that person in humanity. If I see that they are as much human as me, then perhaps I can find a place where we can talk of our differences, and at the very least gain an understanding of what the other believes, and why they believe it to be true.

I would hate for everyone in the world to agree on every fact of life. I think it would be dull. We would be clones, wandering around, wearing, thinking, talking the same. Difference is what makes this world so wonderful.

So lets learn to do more than live with it. Let’s learn to embrace it.

5 Comments

  • Hello Katherine, my name is Jonathan Steele. You probably don’t remember me, but I babysat for your dad in the mid 80s when you were living in Chiswick. I was worshipping at HTB and living in Pimlico. I am disabled and confined to a wheelchair now, living in Angel and going to a church in Angel which is called Trinity Church Islington, a plant of St Helen’s Bishopsgate. I don’t know if Justin remembers me, but if you see him send him my regards. I write and blog myself to fill the time, my blog is at http://www.jonathansteele61.wordpress.com and my website http://www.jonathansteele.co.uk.

  • “Difference, in my mind, is to be valued.”

    Jesus disagrees with you Katharine, and he’s the man. Jesus makes an exclusive claim: no one comes to the father except through me. Other religions make similar claims. This is a prescription for uniformity, not difference, and renders unworkable the sort of religious plurality that is so fashionable these days as a concept. The result is needless division, conflict, bloodshed even. It’s all a bit tragic really, especially as there’s no God.

  • Katharine. Indeed variety makes the world so much more interesting and what I find useful is to always try and understand where others are coming from. We shouldn’t ever think people are just ‘wrong’ or just ‘evil’ – we are all humans and we deal with life in the best way we can based on what we believe in, on our own sense of justice which is influenced by the way we are brought up, by our society, by our culture. I find understanding others is a beautiful thing and gives me huge peace of mind.

  • “It puzzles me, how much we focus on our differences…why?”

    Hi Katherine, I stumbled upon your blog so hope you don’t mind if I add my own two cents to the debate.

    I think the answer to your question is this:
    a) it’s rooted in the perpetual human desire to find someone else to look down on.
    b) people actively won’t do the right thing if it means going counter to the opinions/ behaviour of the majority/ the popular, the rich-and-powerful – especially if there’s a chance that they could be punished for doing so.

    But the bottom line to all of it is simply this: when you see someone being badly or unjustly treated, what will you do to stop it?

    We have to ask ourselves: am I going to let someone get hurt because they have the wrong look, or from the wrong race/ wrong culture, or just poor – or am I going to actually do something. (And by ‘do something’ I don’t mean dispense a few well-meaning homilies on self-improvement, but really do something to help: to stick my neck out to help a stranger just on general principles? And above all, take the consequences of tendering that help – being unpopular, losing friends, losing a career.)

    This needn’t be a hypothetical question. One doesn’t have wait to know how one will react when faced by that choice. From the school playground to the workplace, “different” people get badly treated all the time. Sadly, what is striking is just how many people do look the other way or do nothing.

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