United rather than divided; looking for the best in others
Where were you when it happened? When the world changed completely. When we suddenly found ourselves at war. Again. This week marks the twentieth anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks in America. I can’t quite believe that much time has passed. Where was I? I was at school when the planes hit and remember vividly coming home from school to see my Mum fixed to the TV. I remember looking at the screen and wondering why she was watching a movie, only to realise very quickly that it wasn’t a movie. It was happening in real life, in real-time, to real people. It was just astonishing, terrifying, incomprehensible, that this could happen in the modern age. But it was. The world changed that day and we’ve been paying for it ever since. Seeing the events unfold in Afghanistan recently, it would be so easy to feel like it was all for nothing. But what I’ve noticed, beyond the horror and pain, are the beautiful moments where humanity shows its true heart, when we are united rather than divided and looking for the best in others.
A world in chaos
The world appears to be in chaos: 9/11, Afghanistan, COVID-19, floods, hurricanes…the list is endless. And it’s so easy to feel overwhelmed and burdened by it all. Read my blog How to change the way you look at things for help in this area. But it’s the people that transform a situation from overwhelming separation, devastation, and difference, into one of acceptance, love and caring. Like the beginning of the film Love Actually says, when the planes hit the two towers, the passengers on board, knowing their fate, didn’t send messages of hate or revenge to people. They sent messages of love. When people were injured and hurting in the wake of the disasters, Americans didn’t ask for personal details or political views before deciding whether to help or not. No. They recognised the humanity and desperate need in their fellow Americans and helped because they could.
Today I read something similar about how people overcame their differences in a situation of extreme circumstances. Let me tell you.
The Dan Hotel in Jerusalem became known by a different name in 2020 – “Hotel Corona”. The government dedicated the hotel to patients recovering from COVID-19, and the hotel became known as a rare site of joy and unity during a difficult time. Since the residents already had the virus, they were free to sing, dance, and laugh together. And they did! In a country where tensions between different political and religious groups run high, the shared crisis created a space where people could learn to see each other as human beings first – and even become friends.Our Daily Bread, Monica La Rose, 9 September 2021
This story served as a fresh reminder of just how similar we are as a race; one race united rather than divided. No matter what we believe, we are all people with the same hopes and dreams, fears and failings. We are all able to catch the same viruses and come together in a time of crisis, looking for the best in others, rather than the bad. We have so much more in common with our fellow human beings than not, as this story proves.
And yet, everyday people choose to divide, to vilify, to discriminate, to hate instead of looking for the best in others. And it makes me sad. If the terrible events of the last twenty years have taught us anything it’s that we need to come together, to seek our commonalities, to look for ways we can get along, rather than fight over what we disagree on. When we seek to focus on what we agree upon; when we see humanity first, we can seek to accept the differences too.
A people divided
People have a right to make decisions for their own lives, to live in a way that is true to themselves and in line with their belief system. Unfortunately in the world right now we are being fed fear which is turning us against our fellow man. The decision about whether or not to take a vaccine has become such an issue that people are un-friending people in real life, not just on social media. They see the fear over a decision different from theirs and they react in fear and unkindness towards people they have known and admired for years. It boggles my mind. Whether you do or do not take the vaccine is completely your own decision. No one else’s. We have autonomy over our own bodies and are allowed to make decisions that are right for us. The fact that the governments are pushing so hard and making life so difficult for so many is only going to sow more seeds of dissent and hurt and fear among the populations of the world.
The inability to appreciate an opposing viewpoint is where our culture seems to be festering away right now.
In such circumstances, looking for the best in others can seem impossible.
This seems to be where we are right now. I don’t agree with you so I’m going to cancel you out. Instead of trying to appreciate another side of the issue, another opinion, we just cancel them out of our lives, we actively turn against them and encourage others to do the same. Such intolerance is untenable. Have we learned nothing from the past? Hitler decided to cancel out a whole race of people in his extermination and work camps. We know what such blind hate can do, and yet we keep doing it every day.
Why? Fear. It always comes back to fear. Fear of the unknown, of what we don’t understand, of being ignored, of being unloved…fear.
So how do we combat this fear? How to consciously make the decision to be looking for the best in others. For what unites rather than divides.
How to see the best in others
Change your focus
What we choose to focus on has a way of manifesting itself and multiplying. This is true of how we view the people around us and our opinion of them. If you choose to only see what separates you from someone, what you disagree on, how you are different, then that is all you’ll ever see. You’ll continue to see the bad and the negative and your view of them will continue to deteriorate. Our thoughts, and therefore our opinions of others, are not always true. They’re just an interpretation of our reality; they are perceptions, not truths. When you hold onto these perceptions, they tend to fester and nothing good will come of them.
But we can take control of our thoughts and challenge them. We can choose to look for the good things in people, even the ones we say to ourselves we don’t like or have nothing in common with. You will always have something in common with others; your shared humanity. Go from there. The good will then be amplified and your opinion of them will change for the better. Looking for the good in others starts with a choice.
Commonality not difference
I am not you and you are not me. We are made uniquely different and special, so we cannot expect to think, believe, or act the same way. It’s therefore so important that we keep things in perspective and use that power every day. Perspective is the ability to see things from other points of view. How we choose to act upon what we learn is what either unites or divides us. If we are looking for the best in others we must look for the things that we have in common. This can be difficult when we seem to be at such odds with certain individuals, cultures, beliefs. But it is possible and you can find common ground to relate to someone. Start with one thing that you share and bond over it. It could be food, clothing, nature, whatever. Then look for two more things. Soon you’ll find that there is far more that unites you, rather than divides.
Looking for the best in others doesn’t have to be a chore. It brings out the best in you and them and gives you a common ground to build upon together. If you agreed upon everything you wouldn’t be uniquely you, so don’t expect it of others.
One must see in every human being only that which is worthy of praise. When this is done, one can be a friend to the whole human race.‘Abdu’l-Bahá
Find the joy
It’s so easy to focus on the negative things that go on around us, but that only drags us deeper into division and what separates us. If however, we can find joy, if we can appreciate what brings others joy, we can connect with their humanity and understand them better. We all experience things that make us laugh, smile, joke, and bring us happiness. It’s part of the human experience. When we see others experience these things we are seeing their soul, seeing the joy and light within them, something that we all have. When we connect with that we accept them and it’s infectious. We end up laughing along with them and feel their joy.
Darkness isn’t real
Darkness is merely the absence of light, and fear is merely the absence of love. If we want to be rid of fear, we cannot fight it but must replace it with loveMarianne Williamson
The sun is our main source of light. It doesn’t go away, go out, or pick-and-choose when to provide its light. The earth just moves around it, spinning away so we are sometimes facing the sun’s light and sometimes not. When we are facing away from the sun, we are just absent from the light, and like the quote says above, fear is just the absence of love. To be rid of fear we must replace it with love. Like I said earlier, fear is the main driver of division, so if we are to overcome it we must seek to replace it when it arises. With love. Looking for the best in others means actively seeking love in our lives and driving out fear.
A tale of two wolves
Just like darkness doesn’t really exist, it is merely absent from light, people are not born in bad. We all have the brilliant potential to be good and bad, it just depends on which beast is fed. Here is the story of the two wolves from Cherokee legend:
The story features two characters: a grandfather and his grandson. The grandfather explains to his grandson that there are two wolves fighting within him, which is an image that serves as a metaphor for the man’s inner sense of conflict. The conversation between the two men goes like this:
“I have a fight going on in me,” the old man said. “It’s taking place between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” The grandfather looked at the grandson and went on. “The other embodies positive emotions. He is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. Both wolves are fighting to the death. The same fight is going on inside you and every other person, too.”
The grandson took a moment to reflect on this. At last, he looked up at his grandfather and asked, “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee gave a simple reply. “The one you feed.”www.claritychi.com/the-cherokee-two-wolves-story-and-the-power-of-mindset/
If we nurture the bad things within us and others, we feed the bad wolf. If we nurture the good within us and others, the good wolf will win. When the potential within every person isn’t nurtured for good what remains is an absence of good. We need to feed the right wolf within us to build our good qualities.
Make sure when you are looking for the best in others to see not what they lack, but what they have. Look for the light within them, not the absence of it. Everyone has points of light, like stars against a night sky. No matter how many or how few. Make sure you find them.