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Staying Connected through Difference

By Briony Dalton on Thursday June 25th, 2020

Image: Yoann Boyer

You and I are Different, and That's OK

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?

Alt text hereThere is no such thing as love without its opposites. Image: Tao Heftiba

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.

Alt text hereCan I find the courage to build and cross the bridge? Image: Michael Heuser

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,

Team UPLIFT

 

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22 Responses to Staying Connected through Difference

  1. Your timing couldn’t be more perfect. I sm a newlywed and newly retired with my husband. First of all we are an interracial couple. In the midst of the black lives matter it has been difficult to put into words my thoughts and opinions in such a highly charged emotional atmosphere. I will never know what it’s like to feel the fear and terror my husband has endured. I love how you showed the bridge to connect.

    • Thank you so much Charlotte. It is a very interesting time we are experiencing globally and I think a lot of us are being challenged in many different, and similar, ways.

      Your humility towards your husband’s experience is very inspiring, and your honesty about your own thoughts and opinions. I too find it very hard and am constantly having to remind myself to come back to love.

      Thank you again for reading and sharing Charlotte. I wish you a love-filled, expansive journey alongside your husband.

      Briony and Team UPLIFT

  2. Thank you for voicing my feelings, in a relationship that is just two years old. We met as seniors, bring a wealth of very different experiences into our very strong “love at first sight” connection. How can I trust and be open and vulnerable with someone with values and opinions so different from mine? Love finds a way to understand and admire how he has become who he is, and I start to see similarities in how we moved through some of life’s transitions. And he offers me the opportunity to experience life in new ways I would never have come to on my own, shaking my old patterns and beliefs in the fresh air of personal evolution.

    • This is so beautiful to hear Yvonne. I’m very happy you and your partner are both committed to learning and growing from each other, truly inspiring 🙂

      Thanks for reading and sharing <3

      Much love,
      Briony and Team UPLIFT

  3. I’m now 70 years old and at the age of 63, I finally found my life partner. After 3 marriages, 3 divorces and numerous unhappy and unfulfilling relationships, I think I can say that one must have the same basic values and priorities in order for a relationship to work. One needs integrity, honesty and the ability to communicate. My last husband would sulk for days, weeks and towards the end, even months if things didn’t go his way. Our ideas about the important things in life must be similar, such as having children, our attitude to animals, to Mother Earth, the death penalty, racism, marital fidelity, where and how to live, shared interests and how much time to spend together. With agreement on those matters, all the other small unimportant differences can be ironed out or (agree to disagree).
    In youth, we often mistake physical attraction for love. Thank goodness, with age, the hormones quieten down and we can think sraight and see clearly. Good luck to all you young folk with your new relationships.

    • Hi Lynn,

      Thank you for your comment 🙂 I’m happy to hear you have found a deep and lasting love now <3 and that you were able to keep your heart open to this, despite what I can only assume would have been a lot of heartache from the previous marriage breakdowns.

      The perspective you share has always felt true to me too, which is why I feel conflicted by exploring this relationship, but I guess love affects us in unexpected ways! Because I know in my heart I need to give this a go, despite our apparent differences.

      And who knows, you may be right. I guess there's only one way to find out! 😉

      Much love to you and thanks for reading <3

      Briony and Team UPLIFT

  4. To the person who is not wearing a mask when meeting a “friend” …that person is not a friend, but selfishly putting the lives of others at risk.

  5. I was married for 20 years with someone who told me that it’s good to be different (well, it wasn’t), then my first boy-friend found me through a family web-site and we have been in a long distance relationship for 10 years (6 months a year due to visa restrictions). Although I was madly in love when I saw him again, I am not sure that I can overcome the constant challenges …

    • Hi Eva,

      Thank you for sharing. I’m sorry to hear you frequently feel challenged in your current relationship. I’m sorry your 20 year relationship didn’t work out as well. Relating with people is often hard, isn’t it?! We are very complex creatures.

      I hope you find peace in your heart and soul as you continue on your journey, whether that’s alongside a ‘beloved’ or not.

      Much love,
      Briony and Team UPLIFT

  6. That is really bold. Wonderful journey into human behavior and relationships. I’m having a challenge with some friendships over the issue of wearing or not wearing face masks. I just leave that issue alone, trying to find some other topic to talk about and keep the relationship alive, but it slow. I’m trying to find my patience and stay calm, but it’s trying on all of us. can’t image how difficult it can be to have different values. wowo. Big goal there. Keep going. Let me know how it works. amber

    • Hi Amber,
      Thank you so much for sharing. It’s nice to hear that you can relate, and I agree – it can be really tricky to navigate conflicting beliefs and values with people we love! Indeed it takes patience and a whole lot of compassion. Good on you for making the effort, I feel confident that with time and love you will eventually come to a resolution with your friends, in some way or another, if only because you are doing the work.

      I wish you luck also 🙂 Thanks for reading and connecting <3

      Blessings,
      Briony and Team UPLIFT

  7. In my own experience with conflicting values, I don’t try to change the other. I accept that we perceive things differently. For the most part we don’t discuss it. I state my case & explain my beliefs as will he. Sometimes one or the other can change; if not we just lie each it alone. We’ve been married for 53 yrs.

    • Thank you for sharing Diana 🙂 This sounds and feels like a kind and loving approach, and one I am committed to trying.

      Much love,
      Briony and Team UPLIFT

  8. 39 years ago I met my husband who was so very different from anyone I had ever been attracted to. We have been married for 36 years, have four children and four grandchildren. Our core values have merged over time. The most life giving realization we have both had is that trying to mold someone to be just like you is pointless, unhealthy and would be very boring. Our strengths and weaknesses provide balance for each other. Not with out its struggles, our life together is wonderful. We are still very much in love, by choice and commitment to spiritual growth. God bless you on your journey!

    • Thank you so much for sharing your story and your wisdom Kristy, it’s wonderful to hear and fills me with hope and inspiration 😀

      Much love to you,
      Briony and Team UPLIFT

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