It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept and celebrate those differences. – Audre Lorde
I soak in these words, a quote I’ve heard and been inspired by many times before. Yet on this particular occasion, I’m stopped in my tracks; a big, fat mirror held up to my face as I realised this concept, one I have always felt aligned with, is suddenly challenging me to my core!
I’ve just started dating someone. It’s still quite new and our bond has grown rapidly and expanded my heart in ways I’ve never before experienced. That said, I feel tentative and even cautious. Because despite all the amazing parts, there are also some rather large differences between us, namely in ideas and societal perceptions that bleed into perhaps subtle differences in values.
I’m somewhat of an idealist. I believe there is good in everyone. I try to give people the benefit of the doubt. I do my best to live from my heart. I believe in the transformational power of compassion, empathy and kindness and the healing power of unconditional Love. These beliefs encourage me to bridge the perceived divisions I face on my journey and recognize the challenges within the human condition that we all face.
However, I’m well aware that life’s not that simple and there will always be exceptions to this ‘rule’. There is no such thing as love without its opposites. It is the marriage of the light with the shadow that gives each its specific flavour, this is where the aliveness of nuance comes in. With all of these multi-layered, complex, emotional human beings cohabiting on this planet, no issue or difference can be viewed as simply cut and dry. ‘Unconditional Love’ is not necessarily the quick-fix for everything. I’m realising, there is no one right or wrong answer. Just individuals with overlapping or contrary ideas and opinions, attempting to find harmony and new understandings with each other’s complex belief systems.
So, whilst I’m idealistic in my views, I keep myself in check so that the edges of my beliefs are rounded to accommodate the complexity of human nature and each unique situation. And this makes me stop and wonder – is that why we’re here? To transcend the illusion of our ‘differences’ by relating beyond them?
Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. – Jesus Christ
As I reflect on this idea and this quote from the bible, I feel more and more assured that this might just be the collective human purpose. I, for one, am certainly not flawless or sin-free. And if I were, what would be the purpose of my existence? Why else am I here if not to face challenges, to suffer, to struggle, to grow and evolve?
There is the mud, and there is the lotus that grows out of the mud. We need the mud in order to make the lotus. – Thich Nhat Hanh
What Connects Us?
A study was conducted to see what made the most efficient and effective work environment. Many factors were considered; gender, age, cultural similarities, religion, and values. In conclusion, of all these variables, the one that had the greatest impact on efficiency and coherence in a workplace was values. We will band together if we’re working for an agreed and unified outcome.
Yet, as I compare my own values and ideas with my new love’s, I suddenly see my self-righteous indignation bearing down on him like a sword. It becomes so clear that my notion of ‘goodness’, of the beliefs that hold me accountable for myself, are tainted with separation. They themselves are the raging river that keep me on one side; seemingly safe, secure and protected on the banks of familiarity. But what might I discover if I were to build a bridge across to the unknown? What might I learn? How might I grow? Who might I be if I leaned away from just ‘me’ and into ‘we’?
Virtue is to be more feared than vice, because its excesses are not subject to the regulation of conscience. – Adam Smith
Before, when certain topics arose between myself and he who has captivated my heart, my stomach would sink. Our values were so apparently polarised that my mind was sent into a frenzy, telling me that ‘we’ could never create a loving, harmonious and long-lasting relationship. And my heart would break a little. I couldn’t quite grasp how I could feel so much for another soul, and simultaneously be so conflicted. It seemed such a cruel test of nature. But maybe that’s exactly what it is. An opportunity to find ways to overcome my own prejudices. An opportunity to grow.
Doorways to Growth
As I marinate in the opening quote by Lorde, I realise my assumption that our differences are too great to withstand the trials of partnership is the very idea that is creating the divide between myself and my new love. Despite what my mind tells me about what’s right and good and fair, my heart never wavers in love for him. I have my own beliefs, he has his.
This soul is showing me wounds from my childhood, ones I had thought I’d healed. Many of his ideas remind me of those of my father, with whom I grappled, fought, and wrestled with in beliefs and ideas throughout my upbringing; somewhat confounded that we could possibly be of the same blood. And ultimately, my ‘cure’ for this unease had been to distance myself from my father and others like him. It feels easier to flee than face my internal tug of war between (what I perceive as) people’s goodness and their ‘bad’ or ‘different.’ I have come to know that unresolved feelings have a way of resurfacing to meet me in some way or another.
If you think you’re enlightened go spend a week with your family. – Ram Dass
The old me, unbeknownst until now, is bringing my old reality to this new and evolving relationship. These buried griefs are clawing at the surface, asking me to go beyond the pain of the past and step into a reimagined way of relating with another being. All beings in fact; be they lover, brothers, sisters, parents, co-workers, strangers. They are asking to be healed and not hidden. They’re begging me not to name differences but to remain connected in the face of them.
Can I listen, hear, and do my best to understand my new love’s perspectives? Can I respect them and him, regardless of how aligned or misaligned they are with my own? Perhaps his perspectives can colour mine. Perhaps there is a new perspective for both of us that is just waiting to be revealed in the alchemy of our union.
Can I keep my heart open to him, and all others, as we journey alongside each other, learning and growing in our own unique and wonderful ways? Yes, I can.
Have you ever had conflicting beliefs with someone you care about? How did it make you feel? How did you find peace in your own heart with the ‘misalignment’? Did reading this article change your feelings about values at all? We would love to hear about your experiences in relation to this topic because we value each and every one of you.
With love and respect for our beautiful differences,