Recently, I spent some research time trying to gain and appreciation and understanding of two separate groups that are sometimes marginalized within our society. One group are those with what we classify as brain or mental disorders of some sort, whether it is someone on the autism spectrum or someone struggling with depression or other disorders of that nature. The other group is made up of those living a different lifestyle who identify with being in the GLBTQI community. I posted here a few times along the way (see Trying to understand others without a frame of reference and What does depression feel like. Then I wrote about being there for those in need, Don’t try to understand and don’t judge, just be there.
I didn’t realize it at the time, because I hadn’t gone back and liked for a common thread, but there was a theme that ran through all of articles and posts that I had read and referenced in those posts. The theme is the request from all of the people who may be living in any of those groups that they just be accepted.
As I went back and read more from each blog that I had visited I could see a common undercurrent that said – I do not want your pity. I do not need your “help”. Who and what I am cannot be “cured” by your misguided efforts. Who and what I am is not contagious and I will not infect you. I am not like you; but, I’m not asking you to change and become like me. All I ask is that you accept me.
It is part of our human nature to believe that anyone who is not like us somehow wants to be like us or would somehow be better off if they were more like us. That belief is based upon the rather egotistical viewpoint that we represent “normal” and be definition those who are not like us mus be sick or somehow are abnormal. So, we jump in to try to “help”; but that help carries demands for change and conformity to what we see and define as the norms of our group, for which we have usurped the title “society”. Behavior that is not like ours is defined as somehow being anti-social and wrong. We feel that we must do something about that. While all the while, the person that we are trying to “help” is saying:
Love me without restriction, trust me without fear, want me without demand and accept me for who I am – Unknown
I certainly hear all sorts of rationalization for this behavior of fear and loathing from people when encountering those who are different. Sometimes it is “Holier than thou” appeals to religion or the Bible, sometimes it is just ignorance manifesting itself in fears of catching whatever it is that they find offensive. Many times parental concerns about the influence of these different people on children are sited as the justification for the bad behavior that we call prejudice. Yet that different person is not going to steal the minds of our children or infect the world with their difference; rather they are just standing there and asking you to accept them as they are.
For those living those alternative lifestyles or living with the pain and confusion of a brain or mental disorder, many times the problems caused by being perceived to be different are compounded by those seeking to either avoid them or help/cure them, when all they really want to be accepted and treated as you would want others to treat you. For most, the simplest way to put this is –
Love me for who I am, not for who you want me to be. – Unknown
Christmas is a great time to give the gift of acceptance to all who you encounter. Accept someone different from you today and maybe you will find that it will allow you to Stretch your mind and grow as a person.
Have a great Holiday season!