We all have an “other,” someone for whom our first instinct is to judge or stereotype based upon preconceived differences in culture, political or religious beliefs, clothing, lifestyle, symbols they use, even cars they drive. This is compounded by the news we watch or read and the social media we follow.

Of course, this isn’t new, this has been how humans have behaved for thousands of years. It seems that we are so quick to judge, so quick to fall into our perception of the “other” that we have lost our ability to talk with one another. If we read that so and so is part of such and such a group, we sometimes refuse to engage at all, so sure that we are right and they are wrong, and not only are they wrong but they are evil because they are wrong. We replace justice with judgement. This is not limited to one side of the isle or the other, in fact it sometimes seems like there no longer is an island that we share, it is several islands with gullies so deep and so long that they sometimes seem unbridgeable.

But the truth is that often, when we engage with the “other,” our perceptions of who they are changes. This does not mean that we will necessarily agree, but it can mean that we better understand where they come from, what formed their opinions, and why, right or wrong, they feel the way they do. We will most likely learn that even though we will always disagree on certain topics, there are other places in which we agree.

However, the most important thing about engaging with the other” is that it opens our minds and hearts to our shared humanity, which in turn frees us from the anger, fear and anxiety associated with the “other,” and better able to deal with building bridges of understanding in order to solve the larger issues that may threaten our very existence.

As you read this, I am sure that many of you will agree, but with the caveat that that one particular kind of person, or group will always represent evil for you. But that’s what I am really talking about, that one group that we cannot reconcile with, and maybe that one group, or particular kind of people are the very ones we most need to engage with to avoid further struggle, harm and pain.

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