We all do it. In fact we have probably had it ingrained in us from a young age. It’s quite honestly very easy to do and in a lot of cases helps us distinguish “safe” from “unsafe”. But, what happens when it becomes more constant? When we see “others” everywhere…when more and more people start to get that label?
What happens when we see less and less of “our people” and more and more of the “others”? What’s worse, what happens when we keep finding new ways to talk about, put down and ostracize the “others”? What happens when we stop looking at them as human and we put more and more distance between us? What happens when we justify our actions towards them because they’re the “others”? They’re inconsiderate…they’re dangerous…they’re evil…they just don’t care about anyone else…they aren’t like us…like me.
What happens? Well just take a look throughout history. Just ask some of our most marginalized and historically repressed and abused populations. When “others” are created “rules” are “justified”. When “others” are around it doesn’t matter as much what their rights are as long as “we” are “safe”. When there are people who believe what the “others” believe…well…we need to make sure those dangerous thoughts and beliefs don’t spread.
We live in a world that is becoming more and more full of “others”. We live in a world that is getting smaller and more “connected” than ever before, and yet somehow more and more isolated. We live in a world where “my side is right, your side is wrong” and there is definitely no middle ground. We live in a world that is forgetting what “empathy” and “common ground” mean. Now don’t get me wrong…I don’t advocate for letting people take advantage of or abuse you or make you feel unsafe, but I also don’t advocate for ostracizing, blackballing and cancelling people and highlighting only their flaws and mistakes and throwing away any good or decent thing about them.
We put up walls and create categories and labels to help us navigate the “safe” and “unsafe” spaces in our world, and some of us have put up larger walls and boundaries for legitimate reasons like abuse, trauma, or having people break our trust. And it seems that in a lot of cases, in addition to our boundaries and walls, we have started justifying separating ourselves from “others” and justifying comments and actions that we would never tolerate if directed to ourselves or anyone in our group. We continually distance ourselves from people who don’t think, look, talk, or act like us and find ways to create rationales for our judgments and comments about them.
And…this all scares me…deeply. I fear that if we continue to go down this path of othering and ostracizing and separating that we’ll just continue to make the divide and the differences that already separate us bigger…that we’ll just continue to dig deeper and deeper trenches to keep each other out until we cannot recognize or see any of ourselves in those who are not “on our side” anymore. And the world has a very horrible and tragic history of how that has played out for the “others” over the years…
So I urge and encourage you:
- Actively listen to and try to understand “others'” perspectives
- Be open to learning new things and potentially changing your mind or how you think
- Disagree, argue and have discussions about different opinions
- Treat everyone with kindness, love and respect (even if they don’t reciprocate)
- Try to find some commonality, some trait or aspect or belief that unites you
- Practice empathy and try to think about and understand their perspective and their feelings
- Stand firm in your faith, your beliefs and your convictions
- Share your opinions, thoughts and feelings (don’t bottle them up!)
- Engage in hard conversations respectfully
- Don’t let others abuse or mistreat you
Honestly…I believe if we did even a little bit more of this we would have more peace and understanding and less strife and unrest in our world. If we took just a little bit of time at each opportunity we get to show someone love, kindness and respect…especially someone who looks or thinks or acts differently from us…we would find our walls slowly coming down, our defenses being lowered and our ability to connect with and understand “others” greatly increased. I am called by God to do this in my own life and world…would you be willing to join me?
This is fatherhood…