The Scary Monster Called "Different From"
Living Without A Shield
Today, my son began talking about his upcoming school year, mentioning things such as who would his homeroom teacher be, what friends would be in his homeroom, and so on. He then said he hated school last year. Perhaps if he said this before August 12, it might have gone over my head. We have all said "I hate this," or "I hate that" as if it were no big thing. But today, it chilled me to the bone, sounding like nails down a chalkboard. I interrupted and said, "Please don't say hate so easily. You don't really hate those things. It takes a lot to hate, and it's such a strong word, so please try not saying it like you just did."
I started thinking that when we say we hate something, we are, for the most part, fearful of that thing and want to distance ourselves from it. When we say we love something, we have a sense of awe about it and want to draw closer to it.
Many people have posted the Nelson Mandela quote over the past several days, "No one is born hating..." If you stop and really think about it, there is absolutely no way you can refute that statement. You know it to be true because you yourself can think back on a time in your life, as brief as it may have been, where you had no hate in your heart. We may know what fear feels like, but we let fear be what it is and then move on. It is only when we begin to see how the grown-ups around us deal with fear that the concept of hate takes root. They turn fear into this shield. A shield of hatred. If they can hate it, they can keep it away if they simply keep the shield raised (at least that is the illusion they create for themselves).
After a while, the grown-ups, begin to teach their children about the scary monster called "Different From." They point out where "Different From" lives all around us, and they supply us with the shield so we can protect ourselves. As we grow older, we start to see "Different From" in new places, places our parents never told us about. And so the vicious cycle continues when we have children.
The part of the Mandela quote that always seemed the most important to me is... "People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love." How can they be taught to love after a lifetime of learning to hate? Someone has to be brave enough, through love, to gently take the shield away from us which will then allow us to see that "Different From" was never the scary monster we were taught it was. In fact "Different From" was never really different at all. Why? Mandela continues... "Because love comes more naturally to the human heart." It did in the beginning, and still will after all these years.
Living without the shield is scary at first. Coming face to face with all the things we were taught were different from us can be overwhelming. In time though, we'll slowly see something in those things that will bring a sense of awe, and maybe, just maybe, we will want to draw closer to it.