Accepting others

Gwen Randall-Young

As a psychologist and author, one of my favourite pastimes is to observe and reflect upon the human condition. While doing this recently, I became aware of an ironic “catch-22” which seems ubiquitous in our species. Each individual is unique—millions have gone before us, and millions will follow, yet there will never be another just like us.

At the same time, it seems that most of the tension existing between individuals or groups is based on the belief that others should be more like us. What a formula for monumental frustration. Think of it. What an excellent simulation—an exercise one might find at a corporate retreat on learning to work together and create harmony. Build a planet and populate it with a human species in which no two will ever be the same. Then build in a mindset that has high tolerance for similarities, and a low tolerance for differences.

Imagine a lab experiment where you put dogs, cats and mice all in the same cage. Of course, there will be chaos and bloodshed, and the biggest and strongest will be in control. So here we are in the earthly “cage”, so often judging others because they are not like us, struggling for power and control, not doing all that much better than the animals in the experiment.

We see this between parents and children—where the parents want the children to be more like them, and vice versa. In adult family relationships, there is often a black sheep who is unaccepted. It happens in the workplace when an individual is “different”, even though job performance is satisfactory. And of course, it happens in communities and on the world stage. There is all the nipping, barking and clawing that we would find if we put different animal species together. However, allegedly, we have higher intelligence than dogs and cats. Surely, we can find another way.

How different it would be if we gave everyone permission to be different—they are anyway, so we could surrender to that fact. Next, we need to let go of the assumption that our way is right, or better. We are each only one of millions and millions. How could it be that the creator imbued one of us, or one culture, one country, one tribe—with all of the right answers—and everyone else with the wrong ones?

It’s really not about being right, is it? The human experiment is about how well we can get along and understand each other. As long as we are right and they are wrong, we are still in the cage. When we get that, when we shift our perception to one of inclusivity, only then will be take our next evolutionary step.