“Never mind if your nose is ugly, as long as you can breathe through it.” – Zairian proverb
Our Creator made each of us intrinsically different, and imbued us with freewill so that we could live, and not simply function like robots. All things being equal, our uniqueness should not be a source of conflict; in fact, it seems in principle to promote diversity so that we can appreciate each other and ultimately love one another.
Interestingly, quite a number among us, out of a desire for predictive behaviour, attempt to determine how others should act – and think, in some cases. What we seem to overlook is that our uniqueness is such that there will always be different opinions about every issue – and there are many advantages associated with our differences. That is why it is important we learn to listen and question those opinions which are poles apart from ours.
All of life is an accumulation of our individual adventures. And no matter the cooperation and collaborations that take place, we will always first be individuals before we can become anything else. That is why despite our shared desire for wisdom, for peace, we struggle to reach those ideals. More often than not, we approach issues with the assumption that others see and understand as we do. As a result, we never start our interactions with understanding the viewpoints of others. Too many of us, too often, start with the presumption that rationality has tamed our egos and people will be as objective as possible.
Our individual experiences of life and our relationships with it, be they physical, moral, emotional or spiritual, are so important we do not simply throw them away because someone else is asking us to. It is the kind of knowledge that has made us who we are. We would be stripped of our confidence if we were to let go all of it at a one go. That is why we always start with who we are.
We enter relationships seeking first to preserve who we are, before we become someone else. It is an attribute of our independent will. Thus, more often than not, when a person disagrees with your opinion it has to do with how much more they trust their understanding of events than what you are saying. It is like a guidance system that offer them understanding and comfort. They will agree with you when your argument offers them more trust than they can generate themselves.
Disagreements, no matter the size, offer us moments of courage. They define the individual and presents to all present a source of great learning. Embracing it not only enlarges our perspectives on issues, but also punctures our human pride so that we can lower ourselves to the level of others in order to build trust in our relationships and collaborations. The more we encourage others to be themselves the better we understand them, and the easier it is to relate to and trust them. We are a species equipped to ask questions and systematically chip away obscurity to find the answers. Why then should disagreements scare us? We should always be ready to dialogue and end up with a richer view of life than when there are no disagreements.
The call to embrace disagreement has come about because we are failing at it. We are unconsciously discouraging people to be honest with what their thoughts are on issues and events. Some of us have become demi-gods, victimising those who do not see eye-to-eye with us. We want our opinions to be law, and yet we are the first to deny this of others.
We have closed our minds to issues affecting society. Like the proverbial ostrich, we assume holding back our opinions means that we will not be affected. Well, if you find yourself in that circle, be informed that evil does not look at an individual’s opinion before it unleashes its tragedy. It sweeps across communities and societies because the good people refuse to stand up and be counted.
As history has taught us over and over again, every wonderful thing that happened to humanity was really a spectacular disagreement with an existing notion. To question and to disagree allows us to think through thoughts that would never have come to us, and this helps us to develop an open mind – that foundation of creativeness and inventiveness. Let us never treat disagreements as personal or partisan. We disagree because we believe otherwise. So, let us respect those who disagree with us, giving them the benefit of doubt – and more importantly, question their beliefs till we understand them.
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