I recently saw a quote a friend posted on Facebook and had to click ‘share’ straight away. It said:
“Everyone is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it’s stupid.”
I must admit, the thought of a fish trying to climb a tree did make me giggle a little, but then I started to really reflect on this – a lot! It challenged me to realise just how easy it is to judge others as being somewhat inferior to ourselves or as being “weird” or “wrong” simply because they don’t match up to our ideals or live life as we do.
Then that got me thinking about the word “Acceptance”…. What does it really look like in practice?
In today’s society we are surrounded by boxes. We form assumptions of others based on their colour, nationality, religion, class, where they live, what they do, their accent, education or lack of it … even down to the number of friends they have on Facebook or the number of followers on Twitter! With so many ‘defining’ factors…. is it possible to truly ‘accept’ one another?
It’s as though ‘society’ packs us into neat little boxes – some good, some bad, some cherished some loathed – and sends us on our way along the conveyor belt of life where we’re left totally at the disposal of ‘the other’. We are theirs to accept or theirs to reject, with their assumptions shaping their behaviour towards us.
For society to change, we must first recognise that each of us make up ‘society’ . It can only change if each of us recognise our own contributions to this problem and change ourselves! It’s easy to be accepting of those who are just like us, but what about those who do life totally differently to us, those we don’t fully understand? Can we honestly say we value them equally?
I believe the only way to really start to tackle the issue of prejudice, stereotyping and discrimination is to make the ‘unknown’, known. Not a theoretical head knowledge which is learnt merely through lectures, studies or training, but through each of us individually committing to set aside time and space to allow a real connecting, engaging and appreciating of ‘the other’; recognizing and accepting that their hopes, dreams, fears, strengths, weaknesses, passions, ambitions, culture, views, traditions, beliefs etc. are equally as varied, complex, significant and normal to them as ours is to us. It’s not for us to enforce our way of life and our ‘standards’ onto others, just as it’s not for others to enforce theirs onto us.
So, are there any ‘fish’ you can be more accepting of today?