Recently, the holidays came and went. It's highly likely there were some disagreements in regards to lifestyle, politics or other sensitive topics. While we love our family and friends, we do not always share the same opinions or beliefs. Hence, many of these gatherings lead to tension, arguing and frustration.
Aside from the holidays, we can find ourselves in the middle of a heated debate on social media, from Twitter wars to Facebook feuds. Even the most well-intentions often lead to debate and even more so to misunderstanding.
So in an era of keyboard warriors, uninformed opinions, and polarizing administrations, how do we handle others opinions when they are different from ours? With it being Martin Luther King, Jr. day, I began to think about how little progress we've truly made in the scheme of empathy and understanding. I then began to consider why that is. For the most part, our perception limits our understanding. We are afraid of the things we don't know. We fear people who are different than us. We fear change. It starts with understanding worldview. A worldview is how our experiences have shaped what we believe to be true. It is the box in which we grew up and in which we currently live. It is also an internal decision to either stay within that box or expand outwardly. Going hand-in-hand is belief perseverance. Belief perseverance is firmly holding onto beliefs even when there is substantial contradictory evidence disproving your belief.
Let me give you an example. Growing up, I had debilitating migraines. Now those who actually suffer from migraines know it is completely different from a headache. Researchers are still unable to figure out exactly what causes migraines. However, they are debilitating. When I get a migraine, I have stroke-like symptoms. I was even hospitalized for them because the doctors and emergency response crews thought I was having a stroke when in fact, I was having a migraine. The pain that transcends my body makes me vomit. Like many people, when I am in excruciating pain, my bodies natural response is to vomit. Now growing up, I had a best friend through middle school and high school who had never experienced a migraine nor had her parents. When I would have a terrible migraine and couldn't go somewhere, her response was, "I know you're lying because my mom says a headache can't make you throw up." It's funny now. The lack of understanding or awareness they had. At the time, it was frustrating for me. I would try and explain it to her but, she had no desire to understand or empathize. She was handicapped herself by her worldview and belief perseverance. Instead of empathizing and wanting to learn more, she rejected the notion entirely. That is ignorance.
That simple example teaches a critical lesson. Just because we have not experienced something does not make it true or false. If we live our lives in that way, we are severely limiting our ability as humans. We are becoming harsh and closed-minded people. We are contributing to the polarity and distress of our country. We are contributing to ignorance and prejudice.
A few months ago, two white men were on a Facebook thread with me telling me that neither women or people of color faced any level of discrimination today because it is not legal. First of all, let's look at the lack of logic here. Drugs are illegal. Do people still use drugs? Yes. Killing someone is illegal. Do people still kill other people? Yes. Robbery is illegal. Do people still rob? Yes. Second, I recently heard a story from a man I met that iterated another relevant point very well. It helps exemplify institutional prejudice. He was telling me about the schools he attended growing up in Arkansas. One of his schools was famous for the integration of blacks into an all-white school. His civics professor was briefly telling them about the event in which he was present. The teacher was a white male. He made a comment acknowledging was on the wrong side of history. He was on the side of segregation. Now, he is teaching students civics. He very briefly passed over this crucial moment in their school's history. He made it clear he still holds many of those same feelings. Yet, here he is teaching students about civics. Now to think that he would not amplify some prejudice is ignorant. This is the same in many large corporations. Many of the white executives were firmly opposed to blacks and women becoming equal or even having access to the same job opportunities. Yet, they are still in influential positions. They cannot say in a public setting that they are prejudice because they would face great scrutiny, but they can act in sly ways that contribute to the prejudice or sexism. Case in point, shortly after that aforementioned Facebook thread, the "me too" movement started. It broke the silence of sexism and prejudice against women in a massive way. It has started dialogue and conversation. It is propelling us toward the truth and away from the lies. It is helping us grow. It is uncomfortable yes, but no growth comes from comfortability. As MLK says, "Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle."
Recently, I attended my graduation ceremony for my Master's Degree. The guest speaker was Ken Parker . Parker is an entrepreneur who founded multiple technology companies. His biggest piece of advice was not to get comfortable. He said in all areas of life, comfort is detrimental - health, knowledge, relationships, and professions.
One example Parker mentioned was health and food. "When we've had a long day", he said, "we never reach for a big bowl of kale. Instead, we reach for mashed potatoes, something fried or something cheesy." When we continually eat those foods that are comfortable, we become unhealthy. When we get comfortable in our health, we stop exercising and begin to gain weight and again become unhealthy, leading to disease and illness.
I had my own learning experience and food revelation in the past year. I learned that many think of food in a very closed-minded approach. Our diets have predominantly become processed junk. It's no wonder so many diseases are on the rise like diabetes, thyroid disease, autoimmune disease, infertility and more. Growing up, I was always under the impression that when you are sick, you go to the doctor and get medication. I never knew how detrimental that could be to our health and the negative effects of antibiotics, steroids and more. Doctors always told me I needed large doses of steroids and other medications to deal with my symptoms.
Last year, I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease- Hashimoto's, along with SIBO, adrenal fatigue, and hormonal imbalance. I had no idea that all of that was exemplified by poor diet and a life of antibiotics, steroids, and other medications. After years of doctors, surgeries and more, I was tired of not getting better or having answers. The medications just caused more issues. I had always heard that natural treatment and naturopaths were crazy and would do nothing for me. Even once I started my lifestyle changes, people constantly made fun or made snide comments about me choosing to not take poisonous medications and choose not to eat gluten or other processed junk anymore. These same people are always complaining about being anxious, exhausted, sick, having no energy, not being able to think clearly. Yet they won't eat healthily, they won't try alternative methods like chiropractic and they won't drink more water. They want a quick pill or an energy drink to solve it then they wonder why they can never get any better.
I showed them studies, data, personal anecdotes and more. Sometimes it helped, sometimes it didn't. People tend to not like things that go against their beliefs and I came to understand that. Changing my diet almost entirely eradicated my migraines, I could function at a high level again and I felt better than I felt in years. I learned about food as functional medicine. I learned how to treat the root cause rather than put a band-aid on top of the issues. I learned our bodies are capable of healing themselves when they have the right nutrition to function. Technology has evolved in a way that many of us eat so many foods that are so far from whole foods and end up devoid of almost all nutritional value. People pump their kids full of processed junk and wonder why they can't focus in school, why they are constantly sick and more. When presented with a natural approach, they scoff because they don't want to put in the work to change or it goes against their worldview. Like my friend who said headaches can't make you throw up, these people believe the right water, food and exercise can't heal a body.
Ken Parker went on to explain that our brains are much the same. When we stop seeking new knowledge or stop exercising our brain by learning, our brains start forgetting, they don't keep up as well, they atrophy. Studies show the more we learn as we age, the less our brain ages and the better it functions. This can also help lessen the chances of Alzheimer's. Henry Ford was onto something. “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young,” Ford said.“It seems it is not enough just to get out and do something—it is important to get out and do something that is unfamiliar and mentally challenging, and that provides broad stimulation mentally and socially,” lead researcher, Denise Park
We can't always see eye to eye. It's not even healthy to always see eye to eye. In all aspects of life from work to personal, friction is healthy. It challenges us, it forces us to face other ideas and ways of thinking.
Ken Parker brought up professional comfortability. When you excel at one skill and just stop trying to improve, you start declining. When you do not keep up with technological advances, it is harder for you to remain relevant in the professional world. There has never been a time where that statement is truer. Technology is changing at lightning speed all around us. We have to keep up or we are left behind. I have seen a few examples of this. The baby boomers who either re-enter the workforce or change professions have struggled with technology. There are substantial generational discrepancies that lead to frustration. For example, the whole office is now using Slack to communicate. It is a messaging platform that allows teams and subteams to communicate. Some of the baby boomers refuse to learn the new technology and barely touch their computers. They are showing that they are not willing to learn something new, but they are also harming themselves. They are making themselves less relevant and less of an asset. They are staying in the past rather than growing and evolving. Another way of looking it at is different types of professions. As the times change, professions are evolving in many ways. One example is remote work. Organizations are realizing the cultural and financial benefits of employing remote workers. Thanks to technology, I can work from home in Texas while some of my biggest clients are based in Utah. Additionally, typical job structures are changing. We are evolving from some of the typical work roles like teaching, factory work, retail work, etc. that pays such low wages, to new ways of work like network marketing. People that are uneducated or lacking the full picture immediately hate things like network marketing. It's unfortunate because many families are changing their lives through network marketing. People who otherwise had no other options to break the poverty cycle are seeing life-changing results and breaking the cycles for their children. Their families are getting to live lives they otherwise only dreamt about. In fact, in places like Japan, network marketing is one of the top five professions.
If it doesn't challenge you, it won't change you. This was the continual theme uttered throughout Ken Parker's speech. He went on to explain how comfortability is detrimental in social settings as well. "We get comfortable with those who act and think the way we do," he said. "We start pushing away anyone who is different than us and surround ourselves with only those who are like us." He stated this is the reason we are polarized right now. Instead of embracing those who are different with different views, we criticize them and only surround ourselves with those who have ideas like ours. Think liberals vs. conservatives, black lives matter vs. blue lives matter and more. The reality is that the truth and the growth lie somewhere between the two extremes. It's when we come together to understand and learn from each other that we truly benefit and grow. If you need a reminder about this, sit down and watch, "Remember the Titans."
This idea of meeting in the middle is something I deal with daily. I am the daughter of a police officer. I greatly respect the majority of our officers. I want my officer to come home each day. With that being said, I have witnessed the racism and targeting that the bad apples employ. I have seen bad cops and I know they exist, just as I know bad black people exist, just as bad teachers exist, just as bad judges exist, just as bad actors exist, just as bad everything exists. You cannot take a generality and apply it to a group of people. I recently had a black friend tell me he respected my ability to see the middle in this situation. He said, “As the daughter of a police officer, I respect that you are willing to look at each situation and determine if there is injustice on either side… you don’t automatically side one way or the other.” He continued, “Most people who are conservative or close to a cop immediately just think the cops are always justified, but you aren’t that narrow-minded and I deeply appreciate that.” We went on to talk about this subject agreeing that until we can all realize that the cops are not always good and they are not always bad, or the black people are not always good and not always bad, we are going to be stuck in this feud across the dotted line, yelling at each other and never getting anywhere. As MLK said, "We must all live together as brothers or we will die together as fools."
Not only do we do this with people, we do this with all of the views we take in - the books we read, the movies we watch, the podcasts we listen to, the friends we keep, and more. We tend to only listen to people or things who agree with our worldview, and we cast aside anything or anyone who is different. We will never grow as people and our communities will never improve if we continue on in this matter.
When I lived in SLC, there was a woman in her thirties who told me that all lesbians choose to be lesbians. She said she didn't think that was the case with gay men but she knew it to be fact with lesbians. Her reasoning or justification was that she and her husband knew one lesbian. That lesbian worked with her husband and had formerly been married to a man. They claimed that this particular lesbian still hit on men and only pretended to be a lesbian in order to get attention. I was floored. I got into an unflattering argument with this woman. I am not proud of the way I responded to this but at the same time, I was shocked with the ignorance, prejudice, and generalities she was applying. She only has exposure to one lesbian in her life yet here she is applying that generalization to all lesbians she knows. I have many friends who are lesbian or within the LBGTQ community. I hurt for them in this moment hearing this type of ignorance. My soul ached for a world in which we were open to understanding things that were different rather than condemn something that is different. MLK said, "I have the audacity to believe that people everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education, and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits."
We can't always see eye to eye. It's not even healthy to always see eye to eye. In all aspects of life from work to personal, friction is healthy. It challenges us; it forces us to face other ideas and ways of thinking. We need friction to make progress. Consider physical fitness. To lose weight or build muscle, there is friction. It is not easy, but with continued friction and dedication, the results are achieved. Life is the same way. We are not meant to be blind sheep following a leader, always comfortable, and in fact, a truly effective leader does not want blind sheep but rather strong, invested, educated followers who too become leaders. However, if you are not willing to learn, no one can help you. If you are determined to learn, no one can stop you.
However, the majority of the time, when someone goes against the majority, they are considered fools. Think of the end of slavery, the end of segregation, the right for women to vote, the right for a gay couple to marry and more. When someone stepped up and wanted change, they were bullied, harassed, called names and more. They were simply standing up for human rights and equality in one regard and they were made to be the fool. When someone has a new idea, they are challenged by the majority. They are considered to be crazy. Albert Einstein was consistently ridiculed for going against the grain but he just kept going because he knew it was important. He said, "Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it." Einstein also continued, "Those who have the privilege to know have the duty to act."
When talking about beliefs or opinions, it’s important to realize where beliefs and opinions come from. We each have a worldview. A worldview is simply how you interpret reality or what you believe to be true. Worldviews are influenced by the thoughts of those who raised us, the words we read, the shows we watch, the things we listen to, the people we associate with and more. Many people have a worldview that is shaped by their religion, family, schooling, and friends.
I was faced with conflicting worldviews in a big way when I moved from Oklahoma to Salt Lake City. The biggest conflicting situation I found myself in was being in the religious minority. I was raised Christian, baptized in a Baptist church and later in life was part of a non-denominational Christian church until I moved to SLC. Utah is 65% Mormon. Mormon's have a Christian foundation but have very different views and practices than traditional Christians. When I first moved to SLC I was shocked by some of the views and opinions. They were so different than mine. I kept wondering, "How can these people honestly think these absurd beliefs?"
However, I decided it was important to learn more about their views and beliefs. I attended one of their sacrament meetings, I went to a baby blessing, I talked with those who were active Mormon and I talked with those who were "Jack Mormon," and I talked with those who left the Mormon religion. I learned a great deal. I appreciate their dedication to family and a desire to have moral and ethical beliefs. I do not appreciate the amount of shame and guilt they employ against their people. That very shame and guilt is one of the reasons Happy Valley (the central location of the highest Mormon population) has such high opioid addictions, suicide, anxiety and depression . Ironically, I started realizing the similarities between Mormonism and Baptists. The legalistic approach, the shame, and the guilt was alarming.
After seeing this, I started looking for a Christian church in the area in which I could become involved. I saw many sad religious tendencies within these churches as well. Ihad a sour taste in my mouth. This was surprising because up until moving to SLC I was heavily involved in my church. I taught Sunday school, I baptized two young girls, and I led a youth group. Right before leaving I had watched a very troubling situation unfurl at my church. I watched a young selfish girl destroy a man's career. That same girl was constantly gossiping and judging others in private but in public acted perfect and pious. I saw this again in the Mormon faith. Then I saw it in the other churches I checked out in SLC. I started thinking on situations like these I had seen in other churches back home. It got me thinking some deep thoughts. Most of the people I know have maintained the same religion since childhood because it is comfortable and it is within their box. It doesn't require them to think much or really understand what they believe and why. They simply believe it to be true and the only way.
Here I was laughing at the ridiculous cult-like things Mormons did and believed but then it forced me to look at all religions and even my beloved Christianity and I saw just as many shocking rituals and tendencies. One of the worst things I saw in Utah was how many who leave Mormonism are disowned by their family. That was troubling. A religion in which you are taught to be like Jesus, love everyone and so forth, yet when someone has a different opinion, you disown them? It was illogical and immoral. But then I started looking at other religions and it was the same - Jehovah's witness, Muslim, etc. Even many Christians and Catholics disown their family for leaving their faith or trading faiths.
Even more troubling, I listened to practitioners of many faiths escape responsibility for their actions by saying things like, "the devil was in control." Well, if you get technical, in the Christian faith, they believe that they were granted free will. That means that a person has the free will to make a choice, meaning they were in fact control. A person has the capability to make a decision. They know wrong and right. The Bible is, in fact, a group of stories to instill wrong and right. When they make a choice there should be accountability and responsibility, not blame on the "devil." There more I saw and heard this, the more it troubled me.
In Oklahoma, I watched the rise of a mega church, one that I attended. When it first began to get traction, traditional baptists and other local denominations condemned them and judged them. I have Mormon friends who condemn the "rock and roll church." Once again, they are saying their opinions, their beliefs and their ways are right and any group or person who goes against them is wrong. Just like the Mormons say they are the only one true religion, I realized most other religions do as well. Anything different from their beliefs they cast away and disregard as untrue. I was baffled when I truly sat down and thought about the hypocrisy.
However, I quickly found out that as technology continues to advance, more and more people are leaving religions, especially those like Mormonism because they have access to facts and information they didn't have before and it contradicts what they were taught growing up. I decided it was important for me to analyze my own beliefs and truly understand why and how I believed the way I did. Was it because my family did? Was it because everyone told me I should? Was it because it was the norm? What did I actually know to be true? Was I being closed-minded? So I set out to learn about all religions - Hinduism (900 million), Mormonism (4.5 million), Christianity (2.1 billion), Nonreligious: Agnostic/Secular/Atheist (1.1 billion), Catholicism, Buddhism (376 million), Islam (1.3 billion), Chinese traditional (394 million), Primal-indigenous (300 million), African traditional (100 million), Sikhism (23 million), Juche (19 million), Shinto (4 million), Spiriticism (15 million), Judaism (14 million), Bahai (7 million), Unitarian-Universalism (800,000).
During this deep dive into learning and understanding, I heard things that continued to exemplify why I was seeking this knowledge. For example, I listened to an older Christian woman tell a customer service agent on the phone, "No, you are supposed to say Merry Christmas, not happy holidays." How inconsiderate to think that your religious views are better than someone else's. This customer service agent was being kind and respectful and inclusive of all beliefs and this woman berated her for it. "The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically," said MLK. "Intelligence plus character- that is the goal of true education."
I grew up thinking things like you can pray away or shame away addiction, you can pray away or shame away mental illness or you can pray away or shame away depression. I learned how factually incorrect that is. I learned about the psychology and genetic makeup. I learned about the imbalances these people have where others do not. I learned that praying away these things was discounting the reality of the situation. I also grew up thinking things like meditation, manifestation, and yoga were bad. I constantly heard that those things were anti-christian and sinful because they were related to another religion like Buddhism. Since then, I have seen the benefits of yoga, manifestation and meditation in my own life. I have read the research, listened to personal accounts and looked at brain scans before and after. I learned that meditation, manifestation, and yoga have helped people across all spectrums from Christian to Buddhist to Agnostic. I have seen it help those with addiction, anxiety, mental illness and more. I just had to expand my worldview. Albert Einstein insisted, "Blind belief in authority is the greatest enemy of truth." When Einstein was trying to change the world through his studies and work, he was considered a fool. Now we consider him a world-changer. At the time he was harassed, ridiculed and persecuted. Now we consider him one of the most intelligent humans to ever live. He was on to something.
In regards to religion and judgment, let's have a history lesson. America was founded on those fleeing religious persecution. These people came here to worship in the way they felt was correct or right, not what their neighbor believed to be right, not what the country told them to be right. My religious preference is not any better than the person next to me. I have no right to tell them what they should think, believe or do. None of us have that right. We are welcome to religious freedom. There is a separation of church and state for a reason. It was detrimental. A person chewing someone out for saying happy holidays is not much different than Westboro Baptist Church protesting a funeral or a southern baptist saying tattoos are sinful and will lead you to hell. It is all biased judgment. It's all ugly. It is all harmful. Instead, we should have empathy. We should understand why someone believes the way they do. We should talk about facts and logic rather than opinions and judgment. We should educate ourselves on different views and ways of thinking. Sydney D. Harris said, "The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows." It starts within ourselves.
As I set out learning about religion and how it was created to control slaves and those in poverty, I learned a great deal. I learned how Constantine got into the religion business to control masses along with other leaders. I learned about historical inaccuracies in the Bible and other spiritual texts. It was enlightening and shifted my thought process on religion. Educating yourself does not mean that anyone is stupid in the first place; it means one is intelligent enough to know that there is plenty left to learn and I wanted to learn. My goal is to always learn. To push myself out of my comfort zone and learn things that go against what I have always held to be true.
As I analyzed all religions, I saw similar themes. I saw a lot of hatred. I saw a lot of anger. I saw a lot of misunderstanding. I saw a lot of patriarchy, sexism, and prejudice that started in these religious texts. Each religious book, including the Bible, sets out to tell stories and teach moral or ethical lessons. They are not historical facts, they are stories and tales meant to give us guiding principles on how to behave. What happens is that people get involved and complicate religion. They turn something good into something bad. As the Dalai Lama said, "The purpose of religion is to control yourself, not criticize others." So I concluded that I am not a fan of organized religion and the consequences. I do not believe any one religion can claim to know the right answer. When you think about the millions of people who practice opposing religions, it doesn't make sense to say one is right over another. There is no proof of that. Instead, I want to learn the positive principles from all religions whether that is Christianity, Buddhism, or Unitarian. I want to apply those principles in my life and try my best to be an empathetic person. I will make mistakes. I am human. The only time I will fail is when I quit realizing my mistakes and stop trying to improve or learn. The Dalai Lama also said, "This is my simple religion, there is no need for temples, no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple. The philosophy is kindness."
So with it being MLK day, when we look back on MLK's methods, we see protest, we see heartfelt conversations, we see tough decisions. What we don't see is MLK supporting violence and hatred. We don't see him encouraging name calling or hateful rhetoric. How do we go forward? How do we handle the difference of opinion? How do we handle different worldviews?
Today, the majority of people tend to think the best way to handle the difference of opinion is the following:
1) yell at them
2) criticize them as a person rather than actually say anything about the opinion/facts they're debating
3) decide you will never talk to or interact with a person who has a different opinion than you.
Now I know it's shocking, but those aren't the healthy answers. That comes as a surprise to many who handle a difference of opinion this way every single day. We have become intolerant, yelling, belligerent, ignorant bullies. Now there are overt bullies and passive-aggressive bullies.
When the overt bullies have a different opinion than you do, instead of discussing or debating facts about the opinions, they tear the other person down with jabs, demeaning comments, or worse.
John says, "I don't agree with ignoring 'locker room talk' as normal guy behavior. I think it is contributing to the high levels of sexual assault and harassment."
Joe says, "This is pansy thinking and you are a pussy who is contributing to the weakening of our damned state and nation."
In that example, Joe is not contributing to the conversation at all. He is not saying anything pertinent. He is not even showing any type of respect for debate. All he does is spews ignorance and hatred. Those tendencies do not help anyone. It does not fix anything. There's no further understanding on either side. Joe is truly just being a jerk. I see this from both men and women. Grown adults. And people wonder why the country is in such a state of polarity.
The passive-aggressive bullies can come in many different forms. Often they include sub-tweets or sub-posts (a post targeted at the person without actually saying anything to them), ignoring the person in person or over the phone, refusing to acknowledge the person, talking about the person behind their back and more. Social media is the ultimate play-place for a passive-aggressive person in this situation.
I listen to girls do the following all the time, "Ugh... I am not going to like any of her posts anymore because she thinks that way. You know what? I won't even speak to her."
I've watched siblings and in-laws stop speaking to each other over opinion. Political polarization has been at an all-time high during the last election and the new administration's time in office. One woman I know is very close to her sister-in-law. We'll call her Mel. Mel's sister-in-law was very liberal. Mel happened to be very conservative. Her sister-in-law voted for Hilary while Mel voted for Trump. Because Mel had a different opinion and voted differently, her sister-in-law stopped talking to her completely. How is that helping anyone? It's not. It's unhealthy and contributing to the great division among people.
I've come to realize more often than not when we judge other people, we are going through something else and we take it out on others. We look at the world through our lense and not theirs. We assume our lense is right and theirs is wrong. Jealousy, fear, and anger can be very powerful. Unfortunately, we tend to see the world as we are rather than it is. Nelson Mandela said it well, "The more informed you are, the less arrogant and aggressive you are."
Next time you see a girl or even a guy, post a selfie or a photo of something in their life, like it. Tell them how great they look or how interesting it is. Get to know them more. Have a private conversation with them. Applaud them for feeling confident enough to share a photo of themselves that hundreds of people can potentially judge. Applaud their vulnerability. Make them feel loved. Anytime you think something positive about a person, tell them. When I moved to SLC I started doing that. I was on social media all day anyway for my job so I started to take the time to like more things as a show of support, to leave more positive comments as a show of support. I experienced so much division and judgment living in Utah that I had this unreal desire to shower people with compliments and love. Even if I didn't know them well, I hoped it would make them smile or give them some validation that people had positive things to say about them or to them.
The only way our communities, states, countries, and worlds get better is through continual learning, listening, understanding, kindness, and empathy. Many people think learning stops when they get out of high school. Some people think learning stops after technical school or college. The fact is that learning should never stop. You never have all of the answers. You should always be seeking new information and knowledge. The more informed and enlightened you are across areas in your life, the better neighbor, mother, father, child, cousin, aunt, professional and contributing member of society you will be.
Rather than knowing all of the gossip about Kim Kardashian and the Bachelor, seek to understand what someone different than you is going through. Seek to care for a person who doesn't check all of the boxes you expect. Seek to be friends with someone who challenges you. Seek to learn about the state of our nation. Seek to learn something new. Seek to be more empathetic. Seek to be a better neighbor, a better friend, a better member of society. Listen to new podcasts like NPR, listen to TED Talks, listen to something you would never listen to. Read a book you would never read. Talk to a person you would never talk to. Engage in an activity that makes you uncomfortable and pushes you into growth and away from comfort. Change a habit in your life. Learn about your beliefs. Learn about other beliefs. Don't be afraid of change. Don't be afraid of those who are different. They are not threatening. We all want to be loved and accepted. Think more. Listen more. React less. Grow as a person. Have the ability to just love people.
Robert F. Kennedy once said, "When you teach a man to hate and fear his brother, when you teach that he is a lesser man because of his color or his beliefs or the policies he pursues, when you teach that those who differ from you threaten your freedom or your job or your family, then you also learn to confront others not as fellow citizens but as enemies. We must admit the vanity of our false distinctions among men and learn to find our own advancement in the search for the advancement of all. We must admit in ourselves that our own children's future cannot be built on the misfortunes of others. We must recognize that this short life can neither be ennobled nor enriched by hatred or revenge."
It's kind of like when you get your first pair of glasses. You go to the eye doctor, you sit down and he puts that machine over your face. He starts clicking through different lenses until you find the clearest lense. You put on your new pair of glasses and walk out into the world and for the first time you realize just how blurry and distorted your view was before. All it takes is a clearer perspective.
I leave you with this... what if we fought just as hard to understand as we do to disagree?
If you want to watch some shows, listen to some podcasts or read some books that make you think, here are some suggestions:
The Story of Stuff Series
Genius by National Geographic (The first series is about Albert Einstein)
The New Yorker Presents
Crowd Control with Dan Pink
The Model Health Show
Earn Your Happy
Good Life Project
Happier with Gretchen Rubin
NPR How I Built This
Malcolm Gladwell Revisionist History
NPR TED Radio Hour
The Living Experiment
Power and Purpose
School of Greatness
The Tim Ferris Show
Stuff to Blow Your Mind
The Age of Persuasion
White Coat, Black Art
Point of Inquiry
Stuff You Should Know
How Change Happens
Half the Sky
Women in Leadership
Nickel and Dimed
The American Way of Eating
The Whole 30
Letters From a Stoic Seneca
A Mind at Play
The Happiness Project
Solve For Happy
Tribe of Mentors
Age of Propaganda
Plato the Republic
Autobiography of Malcolm X
On the Shortness of Life - Seneca
Pussy: A Reclamation
The Sleep Revolution
Racism Without Racists
Why Smart People Can Be So Stupid
The Supremes' Greatest Hits: The 34 Supreme Court Cases That Most Directly Affect Your Life
Racial Formation in the United States
Race, Class and Gender
Through the Labrynth
Knowledge and Decisions
The Book of Joy
What the Bleep Do We Know
Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead
One Percent of the Story
Planet Earth and Life
The World According to Monsato
Into the Wild
180 Degrees South
Just Eat It
Forks over Knives