We are more similar than different
It’s been a beautiful summer in the Pacific Northwest! The days are long, warm, and almost every afternoon has been sun kissed. Indeed, we are the land of the late day sun. After work, while the sun is still high, I enjoy walking around Green Lake in Seattle with the parade of after-dinner walkers. Kids are still splashing around in the water and there are battalions of standup boards paddling across the lake.
On those walks, I enjoy the diversity of our community. But I also notice how similar we all are to each other too. We all have most of the same equipment—heads, legs, and hands. Feet that can, in most cases, propel us around the lake. We all feel the same breeze across the water—cool and comforting. We have the same structures—our brains, organs, skin, and nerves. There are minor individual differences in this infrastructure, but it is basically the same.
We were all born and we will all die. We must eat, drink water, eliminate wastes, and breathe. It’s a truism—we are all more similar than different.
Yes, there are differences too. We all look a little different—some are short like me and others are tall. While there are many variations of faces—there again the basic structure is very similar.
Looking deeper, don’t we all wish to have happiness and the causes of happiness? Don’t we all hope to avoid pain and hurt? Don’t we all aspire to have a peaceful life? Most of us want companionship and love, meaningful work or activity, basic comfort, and security. In these fundamental ways, we are so alike.
Despite the vastness of our similarities and the breadth of our mutual desires and needs, it is easy to focus on our differences—in beliefs, life experience, aspirations, habits or personality. Today, there is so much emphasis on how we diverge. Whether they be political views, religious practices, or philosophy of life. These distinctions can have a way of creating the false view that there is an “us and them” that is everywhere. It can cause us to forget that we are one species.
So how can we promote a greater sense that there is only “us and us” for ourselves, our families, and our community? How can we learn to appreciate and respect each other?
Seek to understand others rather than to be understood.
Of course, we want others to understand our point of view! But if we all seek to understand each other better, we will all feel more understood. This requires stepping back—and listening. Start with our friends, our family, our neighbors, and our co-workers. Then try to understand people from other lands and origins.
Our views and personality often derive from our life experience.
Some of us are raised in loving environments and some are not. Some of us have had more material comforts and others not. There are reasons why we are different. Seek to appreciate those causes and conditions. Have compassion for those that were born into less fortunate circumstances.
Cultivate an open mind.
This is my current focus. I can be very opinionated! I am learning to shut up and listen, ask questions, and expand my viewpoint. It’s easy to think that you’re right and the other person is wrong. But generally, there is more gray than black and white.
Be accepting, kind, and generous towards others.
We are all human beings with a desire to be happy and to be peaceful despite our different points of view. With acceptance, kindness, and generosity we can find our common ground, our common basis, and can move forward together.