How often do we say, “That’s not my place to talk about it,” about issues affecting other people that do not look like us? As I make the conscience effort to apply the 5 Words of Healing, Unity, and Growth to my daily life, a simple fact is coming to light: If it’s human, then it does affect me.
I used to pride myself on how culturally attuned I thought I was to the people in my world because I studied people throughout history in college. Now in hindsight reflection I see that my pride was incredibly naïve and misplaced. Until I made the conscience effort to learn the personal stories of the people living in our world, all I had was my own point of view contemplating the theories of others. And more than likely, the storyteller of those theories had no actual experience in the cultures they tried to analyze and define. Theories, charts, graphs, hypotheticals do not make up for the real thing.
The more I expose myself to the people who make up our world, the more I see threads of commonality that we all share. The common threads are things that can be measured on some scale, (see First Step: Removing Moral Arguments from YOur Observations) and yet often are left out of data graphs and charts. Here is my list of the common elements, though you are free to make your own.
A lot of the frustration I hear from the mouths of those I talk with comes from a lack of being seen of equal or higher value to the person or groups they are trying to connect with. Logically, this frustration makes sense when you apply the “confirmation bias” theory of Daniel Kahneman, to it. Kahneman found through his social experiments that there is a strange phenomena that occurs in the brain when someone is challenged to accept something that goes against their rational belief. The brain blocks the information regardless of how much evidence and proof is brought forward that counters this rational belief of the person.
So when applying this confirmation bias here, it makes sense that frustration and anger is the ongoing result between two people, where one does not see the other of equal or greater value to herself. As soon as one person sees the other as having lesser value then himself, the person’s words and actions are blocked by the brain that holds onto this belief concerning the other person.
The brain also loves symmetry. It likes the idea of less is less and more is more. It is this symmetry that associates less money with less moral qualities, and more money with more moral qualities. It is this preference to symmetry that makes it easier for a human to consider another human being as a lesser being and therefore of lesser worth. Because of this rationalization, harmful actions become justified as being for the good of the group.
Being seen of value is something that we all want for our own lives. To matter. To be more than just a form that takes up space. Yet, even with this insistence and expectation we demand of others in relation to ourselves, we often refuse to give this same recognition to others.
2. Compartmentalized thinking
Everything that we learn in our standard systems of education and discovery is done in a compartmentalized form. Math is treated separate from Science. Reading is treated separate from Physics. Art is considered separate from everything; and even in the Art world Painting is treated separate from Music. Religious studies are all given their own sections, departments, denominations, and churches. Boundaries are established early with adverse consequences for going outside the lines.
Is it any wonder that we approach interactions with other humans in this same compartmentalized way? Drawing clear boundaries between each group with adverse societal consequences if we go outside the lines. We even enforce these lines with emotional traits of fear, hate, envy, pride, and anything else that will allow us to keep these boundaries in place.
Why do we feel the boundaries are necessary? Where in nature do we see a strict adherence to the rules of boundaries that we see in humans? Plants cross-pollinate with each other. Animals eventually adapt to the new environments that they find themselves in. What are we so afraid of if we, humans, decide to go against societal norms and go outside the lines of our compartmentalized thinking?
If humans are said to be made in the image of God, then would we not learn more beyond our individualized understanding about who God is if we removed the boundaries that we insist putting humans into?
3. Human suffering
The ongoing result that occurs when one is treated as a lesser value than the other is a risk of human suffering. The ongoing result that occurs when people are able to separate themselves from others who do not look, act, or believe like them is a risk of human suffering. When we stop feeling like we should care because we have justified a boundary that makes us believe that it is not our place to care or act, the result is eventually human suffering.