In order to step away from the in-group and out-group bias, there has to be an understanding that difference does not always create enemies. The truth is there is no “Us versus Them” and there is no reason to “Other” someone. There is a word for this. Ever hear of it? It’s called “Othering.”
There are interesting phenomena that can be seen all around us. Take a sports team. Take the hometown favorite. Take the best player on the team and see them get hurt. See them fouled or mistreated in any way possible. The fans would feel empathy for the player. If the injury was severe enough to end the player’s career, the fans would mourn the player. The fans would hurt as if the player’s loss belonged to the fan’s themselves, which in reality, this isn’t so.
The truth is we have to be careful who we listen to. For example, as kids we learned never talk to strangers. We have been told to be careful when listening to the media. We are told not to listen to people that put us down or say negative things. But what about the voice in our head? What about the internal narrative and the self-talk that creates too many concerns or causes us to overthink too much?
There are words we use, which we often use without thinking because to us the words are commonplace. And to us, they’re just words. But words have meaning. Words mean more than what they say. Words tell a story. Words paint a picture and both define and describe a person, place or thing.
I never thought much about the words I used because to me, the words I was taught were words I was taught. I never saw how they could be offensive to someone else. Plus, we literally live in a world where everyone is offended by something, somewhere.
Just so everyone is clear, the comparison between our lives is really no comparison at all. My life is my life and your life is yours. We all have our own history. We come from different ends of the universe or maybe we live on the same side, but still, the one thing we can never see is what life looks like from behind another person’s eyes.
I am a firm believer that most people cannot pass their own test. Everyone judges. I know this and so do you. We judge. This is simple. And you have to judge, at least to some degree. Who should I trust? Where should I go? What should I do? These are all judgement calls.
The truth is everyone has a life going on. Everyone has their reasons and their rationalizations. We all have our own opinions and biases, stigmas, as well as social and subconscious programs. We have been trained to think and believe a certain way.
A word is a unit of language. Words are the way we communicate. Words have meaning however, words that say one thing can often mean another. There is the connotation and the denotation of a word, which is the difference in the way we associate the meaning of the word.
The denotation is the actual meaning of the word and the connotation of a word is the association of a word in addition to its actual meaning itself. I know what the word happy means to me. I know what sad means. I know what the word love means to me and adversely, I know what hate means.
I know what the word family means to me, and still, I remember a class of mine at the homeless shelter. I asked the classroom to give me their definition of the word “Family.”
A mumbled voice from the back of the room spoke out and said, “Broken promises” because this is what the word family meant to him.
See what I mean?
There was a class I took a few years back about commercial energy conservation. The teacher was an older man, grayhaired, very kind, and with a voice that sounded like a grandpa reading a bedtime story. The class was boring as ever, which made it difficult to keep my eyes open, let alone pay attention and learn the material.
I will say that some of the information was interesting. I understood the premises of the class. I understood the information but less than midway through the lesson, the teacher would go off on a tangent and laugh with his quiet little bedtime story laugh. He would talk about something that happened to him or his family and then just like that, half the class would start to nod and fall asleep.
One of the most intimidating moments during my young life was my first day of junior high school. We didn’t call it middle school back then. We had elementary, junior high, and high school.
I remember the very first time I stepped into the cafeteria in junior high. First, I remember the realization that I was still so very small. Other kids were much taller than me and developed. I remember my breath gave out as I walked through the double doors into a big room with different lunch tables. Everyone seemed to know each other. Everyone seemed to have their place at the table. Also, everyone that sat where they sat found themselves caught in the social regime of popularity.
It isn’t as much as what’s said or done, it’s what is taken away. It’s the aftermath. It’s the ideas and the thoughts and feelings that linger after the abuse. This is the real theft.
This is what bullying does. It’s not just being picked on, shoved, or kicked around. This is more than the character assassinations or the cancellation of someone’s character. Bullying is the humiliation that lingers like an unseen scar, which in some cases will last a lifetime.
We somehow become consumers of our thoughts. We buy into our ideas and we own them for every cent they are worth.
We are who we think we are because of course, who else could we possibly be?
We think about our life. We think about our past. We think about the presence of our day and the moment and the paths we hope to take. Essentially, our mind is always moving and always scanning for the best direction and mapping a course.
Our emotions feed from this. In fact, our predictions feed from this, which means if we spend time on unhappy ideas then we tend to adopt the feelings that support them.