We all have them, right? We all take information at face value. We make assumptions. We make an uneducated judgment based on initial information. We have all done it. I still do it. It is human nature. Do we continue to allow ourselves to just take in initial information and walk away misinformed?
This last week I spent time with my partner’s parents. They were happy to spend time with me alone, since they only see me when I am with Richard, they wanted to “get to know me”. We actually shared a hotel room with them, which might have been weird and uncomfortable, but considering my current home situation it was preferred. After a few glasses of wine, Richard’s mom confessed to me that she judged me the moment she met me. I am not from her world. I am partially covered in tattoos and have facial piercings. I also live in a completely different paradigm than her. She lives in a middle class white suburban haven. This is what she wants, this is what she worked for, and although I am not a fan of entering her world, I appreciate that they live in a different mindset than us.
Actually my hope in life is that people do form a judgement about me based solely on appearance. I hope that once they get to talk to me they understand that there are layers. There is more to a person than their appearance, their clothes, their music, their art. People have an exterior that protects them from outside attacks. If you are going to judge initially and never get past that, then the armor has worked. If you take the time to try to understand people, the armor can be slowly broken down to reveal the true self. As long as you come at someone negatively you will find resistance and walls that are built up. Richard’s sister was even harsher in her judgement. I know that having small children puts you on the defensive, but do you want your children growing up always judging that which they do not understand? If all of humanity had done this science and mathematics would never have progressed. We would still think the Earth was flat and the sun revolved around us.
By taking our first perceptions and setting them aside, we open ourselves up to the potential we find not only a new perspective but a new piece of ourselves. I once feared gays and their agenda. I once believed that I was a conservative christian. Once I opened myself up to things that were not in my own world, I found new parts of myself. I found a humanitarian, who cares deeply about people. I found the environmentalist, who cares deeply about the environment. I found my compassion, I found my empathy and I found my joy. Once I let go of those things that were imprisoning me, I found out who I really was. With those insights, I also found my passion. I found my desire to change the world, not based on my desires for changes but in my desires to find peaceful solutions that take all of our talents and perspectives and finds a way to weave them into a unique tapestry of humanity.
In the past few years, I have put myself into the fire. I have walked among those who would judge me based on my appearance and beliefs. The one things I found is that even with all of our differences a common goal can bring us closer than I ever thought possible. I may never believe in a God again, but that does not make those who do my enemy. It makes us both part of this beautiful tapestry that can one become complete when we work together and weave our lives in a unifying desire. I also found that I myself held judgements based on initial impressions. I set up an expectation to be judged and looked down upon, it was my previous experience. What I found was that by putting myself out there, I was able to influence and touch lives that would have never crossed my path. I found that even though we would never find a unity in all things, we could find an understanding in views and lives outside our own. To know that many people were now at least seeing gay marriage as not an attack on their faith but as an equality issue was a huge step. One that most would not have taken without having met me or people like me.
We can learn so much from people who believe differently from ourselves. I am lucky, I have walked both side of most lines. I was raised religious, I am now agnostic. I was raised in a rural setting, I now find peace in a city. I was raised conservative, but now find that social equality and justice to be most important. The lucky part for me is that I know why people believe either side of a debate. I understand that rabid clinging to faith that is fraying. I understand wanting a world that was like it was before “whatever perceived evil is targeted”. I understand all of this. I do not want to crush anyone’s faith, what I want is for someone to see what I see. I want them to step outside themselves for a moment. I want them to know that I am not making light or fun of their faith, just that I see the world differently.
I know that I will never see things from a christian perspective, nor will I ever politically agree with a conservative. I also know that neither side is wrong or right. We are all humans and we are all basing our opinions and beliefs on those things that fit into our vision for the world, that makes us neither right or wrong. If we could all step aside in our daily interactions to just see things beyond our initial judgements we might find some kind of balance.