It’s possible some readers may be offended by what will seem like my oversimplification of a complicated idea, but I don’t care. Sometimes we are what screws everything up and creates complication; furthermore, wisdom can come in simple ideas, so give it a chance.
I very recently met an older, retired man, let’s call him George, who revealed to me something that revolutionized my thinking. He was volunteering at a race I was working at and said he loved doing volunteer work because he got to meet so many interesting people. Ok, so here comes the fortune cookie wisdom. George said he liked everybody, even people he hadn’t met yet, until they gave him a reason not to. Pause for a bit here, reread the simple statement, and let it rest on the tip of your mind for a bit. Then, let it invade your more intimate thoughts.
What does it mean to like everybody, even the people you don’t know yet?
If you are truly honest with yourself you will admit that you probably do not like everybody, especially not strangers, because, well, they are strangers to you. We fear the unknown. It’s human nature, so don’t try to lie about it. The only times I know of when people are automatically accepting of other human beings is when it’s a baby, a celebrity people think they know because they’ve read the check-stand tabloids, or people with common friends who may have come into the picture with a high recommendation from someone whose opinion is respected.
Strangers, true strangers, generally have to work much harder for acceptance. Why? Again, the fear of the unknown, personal experiences, or maybe just seeing, or thinking we see, what we don’t like in ourselves in someone else. We may live in a country with an “innocent until proven guilty” law in the cases of possible crimes committed, but we tend to assume everyone is guilty when it comes to taking a chance and building a relationship. If only we could get over our past hurts and consider each person a new opportunity for friendship instead of waiting for the moment they will stab us in the back, what a difference it could make. But we’re human, so we are wary; and we are human, so we hurt people. Maybe we just need to take more chances. Everyone you let in will hurt you in some way at some point- we cannot help ourselves, whether on purpose or accident- but think of how many more relationships could be formed and all the good that could come from it.
Remember these two things: we are meant to love one another, and to someone else, you are the stranger.