Do You Respect Other People’s Perspectives?
At times the world seems dominated by conflict and argument. We’re often a collective of individuals squabbling over the right way to do things, the right way to act and the right things to believe. There are lots of perspectives, and they often disagree with each other.
We argue over the things we see in the news. We complain over the videos and articles we see posted on the internet. We’re very good at forming our own opinions about what we prefer, but at times we’re not that good at respecting the opinions of others.
At times it feels like we are trying to form some kind of global consensus on how to live life.
However, the beauty of our experience is that we each get to determine what is valid and important in our own lives. We each get to choose our own path. We each get to determine the best course for ourselves.
It is my opinion that life is much easier when we make the choice to live and let live. After all, our opinions are formed from our individual experiences, and no two of us has the same exact experiences.
We’re all different…
We all live differently. We were all raised differently. We have differences in our race, our religion, our nationality, our family upbringing. We have different educations and different jobs.
I’ve had a unique set of life circumstances and so have you.
I am an American woman who identifies as white. My parents were both American, my mom coming from a German background and my dad from a Spanish one. I moved around a lot as a kid. My parents were very liberal and Catholic.
I went to a great college. I married a Jewish man. I had two kids, one boy and one girl.
This short list of factors have shaped a lot of my life experiences, and therefore they have shaped my perspectives.
How experiences shape perspective
A lot of who I am and what I stand for has roots in experiences I had many years ago.
For example, I don’t like guns, and I don’t much see the point in them. I didn’t grow up with them, and my parents raised me with the belief that they were violent and unnecessary.
I’d never even shot a gun until a few months ago. My best friend wanted to go to the gun range for her birthday, so I went along, but I was very, very uncomfortable. It wasn’t for me.
So, my preferred reality is one without guns. This preference started in my childhood, and it stuck. I don’t see any point in changing my perspective at this point, because it works for me. I don’t believe I need any means of protection, and I feel safe in the world as I am.
However, just because I don’t like guns and I don’t prefer to be around them, doesn’t mean that people who promote gun ownership are wrong or bad. They just have a different perspective than I do, and that’s ok.
After all, I might feel differently if I was raised by parents who weren’t so liberal. I might feel differently if I was brought up shooting guns, or if I was raised in a violent community where I felt like I had to survive. I might feel differently I lived in the country, or if hunting was a part of my upbringing.
My perspective, after all, is just my perspective. It isn’t right or wrong, it’s simply the perspective that is relevant to my experiences.
All subjects are fundamentally neutral
The truth of the matter is that all subjects are relative and fundamentally neutral. A gun could be viewed positively or negatively depending on who is looking at it. My viewpoint is largely negative on this subject, but for others it is quite positive, and that’s ok.
We didn’t come to this planet to agree on everything (and if we did, we’re failing miserably at this task!). We came to have individual experiences, and this means we are going to have differences of opinion.
When we try to force other people to see things from our perspective, we make things much harder than we have to in life.
It’s OK to disagree!
When we insist that others agree with us, we are shouting a very loud, and a very self-destructive message out into the universe:
“THERE IS NO FREEDOM OF CHOICE! THERE’S ONLY ONE RIGHT WAY FOR ME TO BE!”
Now, I don’t know about you, but I like that I get to choose how to live my life. I also like that I have the option to change my mind whenever I want.
I don’t like the idea that there is some sort of mold we are all supposed to fit into.
I don’t want to feel as if other people get to decide what’s valid in my life. I don’t want to feel as if my perspective is irrelevant. I don’t want anyone else to feel that way either.
So, I may not agree with your political preferences or how you raise your children. I might not like your hairstyle or the clothes you wear. However, I’m glad you have the ability to choose what works for you, because it means I get to choose what works for me.
Beyond that, I don’t see the point in forcing my viewpoint on you, because I know that no matter how hard I try I can’t see the world from your eyes. You best know how to define your own reality, because it’s your reality. In all honesty, how you navigate your reality really isn’t any of my business.
Arguing and debating over who is right, from my perspective, is a colossal waste of time. We’re never going to agree on everything. We’ll never see things from the exact same perspective (at least not in this lifetime!).
I may strongly dislike racism, sexism and homophobia, but if I force everyone to abandon their beliefs and agree with me, I’m no better than the racists,the sexists and the homophobes. I’m just another person who insists everyone thinks like me and acts like me. And I don’t want to be that way.
True tolerance is accepting of all perspectives
Tolerance isn’t a one-way street. You can’t be tolerant of only one set of opinions. If you are, then you’re not truly tolerant.
True tolerance is respecting everyone’s right to be what they are, even (and especially!) when we don’t agree with their choices. True tolerance includes accepting other people’s choice to be intolerant.
So I choose to be tolerant, even when it’s not the popular choice. I choose to let people make their own choices, because I know I don’t have the power to create in anyone else’s experiences. I choose to be tolerant because it’s only my job to create my reality. It’s not my job to create yours.
There will be people who view me as one who puts my head in the sand, and I’m OK with that, because that is their perspective. There will be people who see me as ignorant, and that’s OK, because that is their perspective.
From my perspective, I know you have your reasons for your beliefs and your actions. From my perspective, I don’t want to force you to look at life the same way I do. From my perspective, I choose to look at you and know that you are doing the best you can from your place in the world.
You are in charge of your own thoughts and your own actions. Far be it from me to decide how you should live your life.
Related Article: Hating Others Is Hating Yourself
From my perspective, I prefer to live in a reality where I am allowed to make my own choices and a reality where I am accepted for who and what I am. Therefore from my perspective, it is important that I allow you to do the same, and find a reason to love you regardless of your opinions and choices.
I’ve come to find it’s a lot easier to love other people when you cut them some slack for living their own lives and coming to their own conclusions. From my perspective, when I love you as you are, I make a choice to love myself as I am. In my book, you don’t have to “fall in line” to be worthy of my love and acceptance, so neither do I.
True tolerance, in the end, allows you to be free in your very own mind. Free to do whatever you want. Free from letting other people’s choices affect you negatively. Free from needing everyone to agree with the truth of your reality.
That, at least, is my perspective.
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Image Source: This image was reproduced with permission from the artist, Cameron Gray.
Dear Andrea, thank you for this great article.
I completely agree to your opinion. My problem is what you mentioned, too: I still have problems tolerating racism and ESPECIALLY people who do not tolerate me in return (and the latter is a topic I have very often been dealing with!) While I used to get very emotional when confronted with this, I am still thinking of what to exactly do in order to get along with it – as best as I can. My assumption is that this a very important life lesson to be learned and I try to do my best, but it is really, really, hard for me because I have often been offended for “ordinary” things, like my style of clothing (which is rather elegant than casual) or for just having other interests.
Another problem (according to my point of view) is the media promoting this view of intolerance very strong, recently. I am about to freak out when I see how people are being judged when they are acting “politcally incorrect” although their opinion is very mature and comprehensible. I do not watch TV anymore but you are being confronted with this problem everywhere so what to do?
Thank you and many greetings from far away!
Auf Wiedersehen, liebe Andrea 😉
Thanks for your kind words and for sharing your thoughts. I would agree with you when you say that the media promotes what I guess you could call “intolerant tolerance” or pre-defined “political correctness.” There are certain ways we are “allowed” and encouraged to be tolerant, and others where we do not feel allowed. There are always shades of gray to every issue, but often these issues are polarized by the media in black and white (no pun intended).
For me, I think the key is in being honest about my choice to be tolerant. I assume there will be people who disagree with the “live and let live” philosophy, and who will argue that by being tolerant I’m perpetuating the world’s problems. However, if I don’t argue with them it doesn’t end up being a major issue. When you aren’t willing to argue, those who wish to argue tend to leave you alone.
If cornered into a debate I’ve found I can usually play devil’s advocate in a way that respects both sides of the argument, and this keeps me from getting entangled in viewpoints and arguments I don’t want to be a part of. My goal is simply to live and let live, but many people won’t agree with that. To be truly tolerant, I’ve got to be OK with the fact that people will disagree with my tolerance. I’ve got to accept and allow the intolerance that exists on both sides of the debate.
Sometimes this is easier said than done, but I’ve found the less polarized I am, the better I feel about the world and my place in it <3
Thanks again for sharing!