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Appreciating Our Differences

by Ruth Gordon, LCSW

This evening I went to see the movie, “Rachel Getting Married”. If “Caddy Shack” is your idea of a great film , this one is definitely not for you. The film is devastating and human and joyful and touching and hopeful all at the same time. I enjoy a certain amount of emotional wreckage, especially when my doses come from a distance, so for me, I feel that my movie money was well spent.

One of the sub-themes of this movie was the realization of the joy and comfort available to us when we are able to expand our ways of thinking so that we include other cultures and points of view in our value system. I will not reveal plot points, but this is story-telling that possesses wisdom and an attitude of respect. See it if you can.

What I experience over and over in my life and practice is the belief held by many that it is impossible to be emotionally intimate with someone who sees the world through a different lens. We seem to be living in a time where we expect others to “twin” with us. If they fail to do that, we immediately brand them as the “enemy”, and close our minds and hearts to all kinds of wonderful possibilities.

Think about it. If, somehow, we were all programmed to reflect identical beliefs what would happen to creativity? How would we have painters, poets, musicians or scientists? It’s the person who essentially says , “I don’t think I agree with that” who discovers something new. Isn’t it sad that the “establishment” so often derides the idea of a new influence? I understand that there is the tendency to protect what one already has; nobody like to feel that they have “lost” something. But, why does it have to be all one way or the other? We live in a continuous cycle of birth and death; does it not make sense that different ideas of beauty, justice and belief come to the fore as the world changes and shifts? It sure makes sense to me.

It really bothers me that we seem to have lost our ability to good-naturedly spar over our varied ideas of how we would like the world to be. This is a time when we appear to be in a cycle of limited resources — wealth and energy assets look as if they are in short supply. We have become so focused on what we perceive that we are losing that we fail to recognize the assets that are ours forever and in unlimited quantities, should we chose to use and value them. There is no ration on love, trust, compassion, sensitivity, grace, or kindness. These are the commodities that we crave, and often believe we can achieve only through wealth, influence and power. The predicament is not that you possess wealth, influence or power. The trouble starts brewing when they possess you.

Here’s something else to think about: Don’t you think that you would eventually become terribly bored with a mirror images of yourself? You might feel more secure that way, but where would you find inspiration? When would you experience the joy of crafting an object or idea that is , for the most part, uniquely yours? We would never have a symphony if we used only one note.

Of course you can have a happy marriage despite philosophical differences; of course you can have a good friendship or any other kind of relationship. More important is the concurrence of your values. Here’s how you disagree in a way that is healthy: You start with each of you listening to the other and I do mean just listen. Check to make sure you’ve understood correctly and then present your point of view, asking your partner to listen to you without interruption. So often we get so caught up in the details of what we would like to say, that we never even hear the other. Try starting out with good will. Hey if James Carville and Mary Matalin can do it, so can you.

Better yet, why not assume that most people are pretty nice. You really can’t judge someone by a first impression (I don’t care what anyone says). Try not to hurry to conclusions and you will, I bet, find yourself to be pleasantly surprised. For the most part our behavior originates within ourselves — no one forces us to respond in any particular way.

Finally, even though it’s tempting, try very hard to resist convincing yourself that there is only one way to accomplish something There are lots of ways to cook a chicken — I might like barbequed and you might like baked — they’re both good.

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Ruth Gordon is licensed clinical social worker in both Massachusetts and Florida. For more information, please visit her listing on the Therapist Directory. This article may not be reprinted, reproduced, or retransmitted in whole or in part without the express written consent of the author.

3 Responses to “Appreciating Our Differences”

  1. mpande Says:

    i do believe that we were made to compliment one another through our uniqueness and true creativity does germinate from the different situations and environments we are exposed to.

  2. farouk Says:

    i didn’t see the movie yet but i will consider doing it :)

  3. tharusha Says:

    yes…i too believe that we have to accept and respect other people with their own views. I like this news letter. Thanks Ruth.

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