• Carolyn Norton

Embracing Differences

In my last post I talked about being shade to others and how my Uber driver Gadistu was that for me. Now let's talk about what happens when we do the opposite of that.

These days we seem to be at each other's throats, throwing shade at each other instead of sitting down, listening and having the important and uncomfortable conversations we need to have. We're like a hamster caught in a wheel that keeps going around and around, making up narratives we haven't researched, arguing over things we don't even fully know the truth about, even accusing people of being racist because they vote a certain way. We are allowing ourselves to get distracted by the loudest voices, not realizing those may not always be the right voices to be listening to. We are distracted by our own hurts and struggles and challenges. And friends, I may be the guiltiest of all.

"Why can't we say we're on this path together, instead of who's ahead and who's behind?" (Bob Goff)

Now termed "cancel culture", we are living in a world where group shaming, disrespect and even hatred are a common occurrence when someone says or posts opinions that are contradictory to their own, especially when it comes to politics or social justice issues. Comments are being taken out of context right and left. Social Media companies are even taking down "hate speech" that they see. The problem with that is, who and what defines "hate speech"? Maybe we should call it "Cancer culture" because it's starting to feel like a harmful practice that spreads or destroys- literally. (see definition #5). And if we're not careful we will destroy each other. In fact, it feels like we're well on the way.

"Choose audacious hope, audacious love when you look into the eyes of man." (Lauren Daigle)

As human beings we need to have the common decency to respect each other's opinions and embrace our differences, no matter what they are. After all, our country was founded on differences - differences in race, religion, opinions, backgrounds. How boring would our world be if we all believed and said the same thing? I know I don't want to live in that world. In my opinion, differences are what makes our world go around!

"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." (Wonder, the movie)

I was listening to a podcast the other day that was talking about the importance of kindness. They used Mr. Rogers as an example and said that maybe that's why Hollywood has been making movies about him lately. It seems that his way of loving his neighbors (and ALL people for that matter) is rare these days.

"Our society is much more interested in information than wonder, in noise rather than silence...And I feel that we need a lot more wonder and a lot more silence in our lives." (Mr. Rogers)

So why is that? What keeps us from being kind and embracing differences in others? You probably guessed it- things like fear, unconscious biases, envy, feeling threatened and comparison. We seem to all be competing for something, searching for answers that we may never even find. And we certainly never will if we remain stuck there.

Think about it. What would the world be like if every painting was one color? We need the yellows, blacks, greens, browns, whites, the grays and reds and purples and blues to make up God's masterpiece! No one person looks the same for a reason. We are made fearfully and wonderfully formed by God himself. And we need to treat each other as such.

"I always get to where I'm going by walking away from where I've been." (Winnie-the-Pooh)

Over the past few months, since George Floyd's death, I have been on a personal journey- reading, listening, watching all that I can to understand how we got to where we are today as a nation, and where I stand personally, in terms of social justice and politics especially. I've had to really dig deep, pray about and research to be able to confirm with conviction where my own values and opinions lie and why. Where I've landed is freeing and has opened my heart and mind wide. I also feel much more peace in knowing that I will not always say or do the right things, and it won't always be the popular opinion, but the only person I ultimately have to answer to is God. The world gives us images every day of who we need to be, but I know that I am made in the image of God, so why do I care so much about trying to fit in that box? I am well aware that I may be in the world but I am not "of the world". I do, however, know that God is very clear on what He requires of us.....

"And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." (Micah 6:8)

God has given me a love for other cultures, and I'm grateful for it every day. I'm probably drawn more to people who are of different races, faiths and backgrounds from me than those who look like me or believe what I do. I want to be more like Jesus. He was humble and kind. He wasn't a "people pleaser" like me. He didn't care what others thought of Him. He always hung out with those who were different from him- the broken, the lost, the sinners, the doubters. He invited them to his table. He healed them and brought them in and loved them in ways that most other people had not. And when one sheep went astray, Jesus always went after it.

"If you want a report card of how you're doing, look at how you're treating people who act differently from you." (Bob Goff)

I've been that lost sheep many times- more than I can count. Heck, I've been that lost sheep this year. I'm that lost sheep in many ways right now. You may be too. This season has been hard. All we want is the opportunity to be known by others, which is tough when we can hardly be around people. So instead, we hide behind our phones, emails and social media. I guess it feels easier to post your opinions- popular or not, no matter how hurtful they may be to others.- rather than talk about them. I know, with every post I make, I am left wondering how people will interpret that, especially those who don't know my heart, so lately I just choose to stay away from certain topics.

But we can't forget, even when other people don't see your heart, God does. In fact, he created it! He's always there to rescue us and point us back to Him. So all you need to concern yourself with is how God sees you- with unabandoned love!

"Lord, make me an instrument of your peace." (St. Francis)

In response to this quote, Dr. Wayne Dyer says, "When you are an instrument of peace, you are not seeking anything, you are a peace provider. You do not seek peace by looking into the lives of others and wishing that they would change so that you could become more peaceful. Rather, you bring your own sense of calm to everyone you encounter."

Start with understanding, lead with love. Stay present. Be curious. Seek truth. Have the hard conversations. Accept others' differences. Bring peace wherever you go. The world is hurting.

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)

Let's be light in this dark world friends. When we embrace differences and see the beauty in it, we expand our horizons and open our hearts to have the dialogues we need to have.

What lost sheep needs your kindness today?

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