If civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationships – the ability of all peoples, of all kinds, to live together, in the same world at peace.
~Franklin D. Roosevelt~
Does this seem like a strange question? We usually try to think of ways to get along with others despite our differences not because of them. Or you might decide to dismiss those who disagree with you in order to avoid having to deal with conflict. Is it possible to use our differences as a way to relate to each other?
What if everyone thought the same way? Wouldn’t this create a bland and boring world? We would soon become complacent and accept everything as it is, ignoring the possibility that changes might be needed or even possible. But maybe the world is perfect already. This is not likely given the evidence before us on a daily basis. This is not the case now and it will not come about by chance.
The only way to live peacefully in the world we have now is to stop thinking and wondering to ourselves whether things could be better and do what we can to help create a better world. It would presume that everyone is equal and is treated as such.
Many of us share the same dreams. We would like to live in peace, have decent living space, enough food, be able to provide for our children and prepare them to eventually make their own way in life. No argument there. I can’t imagine that anyone would consciously try to prevent someone else from pursuing these goals.
Yet we are not all the same. Some of us are born into families with parents who know how to work together raising us to live satisfying and productive lives and have the resources to do so. Others have parents who have struggled to survive or may not have learned what it means to be a good parent. Some parents grew up in the shadow of violence or deprivation. It is all they can do to survive themselves.
Some of us learned from their parents that we are all responsible for each other. Others have learned that it is everyone for themselves and that you have to fight for what you want. Still others see the world’s resources as limited and that you have to grab what you want before others get there first.
These observations highlight the differences in how we view life. If you see life as a joint venture, it is much easier to work together toward all of us meeting our needs. If you have been deprived of the necessities, not to mention the joys of life, you might find it hard to think about others’ needs. It may seem like all you can do is take care of yourself.
How do we come together or help each other with our lives if we are all so different? I think we need to start by understanding what past and current life circumstances have been like for each other. It is easier to relate to others with experiences are similar to our own. Getting to know others whose lives have been very different from ours will help us appreciate their struggles. Despite these differences, I think it is the rare person who has not had some times of struggle and challenge making life difficult. The key is to find ways in which our conflicts are similar to those of others and learn about their differing circumstances.
I think the greatest challenge is to understand others who are angry about their misfortune. It will be even harder if you are one of them since you then have your own anger to contend with. Understanding these people might help you appreciate the blessings in your own life or might help you see how others cope with their difficulties. How others cope might provide some lessons for own struggles.
There are some specific ways we can use our differences to come together. I will address these in my next article. Stay tuned.