Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Like Minded

I've been thinking about the idea of filling one's life with like minded people. I understand the temptation. When we surround ourselves with people who think just like us, we never have to question our beliefs or thoughts or ideas. We never have to expand outside our safety zones. We can reinforce whatever we want to believe regardless of facts or the picture beyond our front doors. We never have to find out we're wrong about anything because what a travesty it is to learn one is wrong.

I don't know about you, but this would begin to bore me.

Besides how do we find solutions to problems or figure out how to improve situations or even find fulfillment in life if no one ever challenges us?

I have friends with myriad backgrounds. My circle includes people of a multitude of religions or lack thereof, people from around the world who expose me to various cultures, people with varying degrees of political awareness and involvement, pacifists, activists, those in the military, people who abhor the military, gay people, straight people, married people, single people, conservatives, liberals, traditionalists and progressives, writers, non-writers, readers, and non-readers. I could go on, but these are all just labels. As I've said before, I hate labels. (See Human Beings First, Forget the Labels) At heart, these are people who have much more in common than not even if they'd never admit it.

I find the mix of people in my life exciting most of the time. I see how other people think and what drives them. I get to have conversations that prove we all have more in common than not. I love it when I post something with an edge to it that those who inhabit my life gravitate toward with equal enthusiasm. This proves to me that human beings can find common ground if they open their hearts and minds to not only those who are like minded but to those who aren't.

I'm naturally curious about people and what makes them who they are, so, for me, in the absence of lies and half-truths, I appreciate and respect myriad people's points of view. I don't discuss certain topics on places like Facebook because I don't think there's any point; however, it doesn't take a lot of effort to figure out where I stand.

The interesting thing I've discovered is that many of my friends assign "beliefs" to me based on their interpretation of my behavior, which just goes to show once again how much we all have in common. In those moments, I wonder if we dropped all these beliefs that divide us and just treated one another with love and respect, would we discover a better life for all or would those who use their beliefs to create division just seek out another way to create division? After all, a belief is not a fact...

There are moments when I like the relief my like minded friends bring me because I, like everyone else, appreciate knowing I'm not alone when it comes to the things that are important to me, but I also don't do particularly well with "yes" people. I'd much rather surround myself with people, the like minded and the not so like minded, who help me better understand the human condition and what brings humanity to the life we live.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Humbled By a Moment of Hate

Yesterday, I felt a moment of hate toward another person. It was the first time in a long time I'd allowed hate a moment in my heart. The hatred came from reading about pain and disappointment experienced by someone I love deeply caused by someone she should've been able to trust. I long ago gave up any hope of the person who inflicted the pain following through on any promise, but this wasn't about me.

I'm not even sure why it hit me so hard. I know how this person is. Hurting others has never concerned her. I am well aware of this.

I try to live my life from a place of love. I try to love even those who hurt me because I believe when we hate we hurt ourselves more than the person we feel hatred toward. So when that moment of hate hit my heart, I felt completely overwhelmed. I fought back tears, but a couple escaped.

I choose to release that hate, to just let it go, to not let it consume me or drive my actions, but I struggled to actually follow through on the release. It popped in there and hung around long enough to remind me that I'm not immune to hatred even though I try my best to live from love even when I have to let someone go from my life.

In this brief moment when hate crept into my heart, I felt out of control. As I released it, I felt humbled because it reminded me how easy it is to slip into hate as well as how easy it is to become overly confident of my ability to live from a place of love. The experience reminded me how important love is and even how important hate can be if only to remind us of the importance of love.

We have a responsibility to choose how we live our lives. I choose love even if I do find it hard to love some people. I just have to remember that to love someone doesn't mean I have to invite that person to be a part of my life.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Judgment - Big, Bad, Ugly Judgment

How often do we judge without realizing we judge?

We look at someone's situation and say "Well, if I was in that situation I would or I wouldn't....", but that is a judgment on the person's choice. The truth is we don't know what we would do because we're not in that situation. It's easy to sit back and say how someone else should react without knowing the whole story. The truth is we can never know the whole story unless we live it ourselves.

People stay in situations that appear, and sometimes really are, bad for them for a variety of reasons, all of them highly personal. When we heap our judgment on top of them, we make matters worse. We seek to compare our situations with those of others when there is no comparison. Every situation is unique, even those that appear exactly the same.

Even if we go through a similar situation as someone else, it's not the same situation because we bring our pasts with us into every situation. Those pasts affect our decisions and make us see and feel things differently. There are experiences in life that are similar to others and make those who experience them more susceptible to empathy even without going through the exact event. However, someone who has never experienced anything remotely like a particular situation can never really understand it or know how they would react to it. I realize this every time someone offers me a "Well, I would just..." solution to a problem in my life proving they don't really get it. It's hard to not feel judged in those situations. I've started trying to reign in those kinds of comments as I feel the pain of receiving them. I'm trying to listen more and only offer "I would..." comments when asked or at least qualifying them by recognizing how different our life experiences are. I'm not great at it yet, but I'm trying.

During a conversation with a dear friend recently, I'm certain we both felt judged at different points in the conversation. I certainly didn't mean to be judgmental, and I don't think she did either yet there it was. Judgment between two people who love one another.  Big, bad, ugly judgment. When judgment enters, understanding and even communication ceases as defenses erect themselves around us.

Sometimes we allow our beliefs and opinions to blind us to anything outside the immediate scope of supporting our point of view. I started out looking to understand an opposing point of view and ended up in a situation where I just felt confused, judged, and judgmental. I wasn't looking to change my point of view or my friend's point of view, but to understand how we, two seemingly intelligent, educated, experienced human beings could come to such radically different points of view on an issue or possibly two or three... I can usually understand the other side's argument even if I don't agree. When this fails me, I tend to seek understanding.

I'm finding, though, there are some arguments which just don't make sense to me. I feel as if we get caught up in beliefs and nuances and what we wish the world was and ignore reality to create a world that fits our viewpoint. There are times I wish the solutions were simple, but, honestly, I think given the state of the world, solutions are complex and need to be balanced with differing opinions. The more dogmatic we are the farther apart we end up. The farther apart we are, the less likely we are to find answers.

We live in a society where what I post on the Internet in Albany, Oregon can be read and felt in Saudia Arabia, Nigeria, England, Australia, Germany, or any place else on Earth and therefore has the potential to affect lives, for good or bad, around the world. Yet we want to remain in an ideology that says our sphere of influence is confined to a city, a county, a state, a region. This is just no longer true.

So, after my conversation ended, I thought about the words spoken. I realized there were times when I took my friends words and applied a colored lens to them because that fit with what I know about other people with similar beliefs. That wasn't fair to my friend because I know in my heart she doesn't hold those beliefs. There were also times when I found her comments about things about which I have first hand knowledge and she doesn't (for which I'm grateful) hurtful though I knew she meant no harm. She's seeing things through her life experience, and I'm seeing them through mine. This makes for judgments that don't always make sense to the other person in the conversation. When we can hear one another and bridge those gaps, we create the opportunity to find common ground and move forward. When judgment enters the picture, the bridge tends to spring a leak if not break entirely.

And this brings me back to the opening line. We often judge other people's circumstances based on our own life experience rather than looking at their life experience and giving them the benefit of the doubt that they did the best they could in the moment. It's easy to sit back in the comfort of our homes with supportive families and friends and vow we'd take an action because that's what makes logical sense yet the truth is we really don't know. Unless and until we can live another person's life, we really have no right to judge their choices, beliefs, or opinions. Yet, it seems we all slip into those judgmental places from time to time. I hope I can learn to recognize mine and stop them in their tracks. I'm working on it...

That said, I refuse to bite my tongue when people pass judgment on me they have no right to pass because if I don't stand up for myself, who will stand up for me?

Friday, January 4, 2013

Warrior Woman Appears on Rhymes and Times Remembered

Audrey Austin shared my poem, Warrior Woman, on her blog, Rhymes and Times Remembered. Please check it out! Thanks, Audrey for sharing my work with your audience!