Pastor Jack Freed used this quote today in his blog, Jack’s Winning Words – “Be open to learn, to relearn and to unlearn.” (Unknown)
That quote is probably based upon the words of Alvin Toffler. Alvin Toffler (October 4, 1928 – June 27, 2016) was an American writer, futurist, and businessperson known for his works discussing modern technologies, including the digital revolution and the communication revolution, with emphasis on their effects on cultures worldwide. He wrote the 1970 book Future Shock. Toffler is credited with saying: “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”
Toffler was focused upon our ability to change in order to move on to future technologies. I prefer to focus here upon using unlearning and learning to change our behavior towards others.
It is widely believed that our preconceived notions and prejudices are learned behaviors, mostly picked up in our youth as we watch and learn from what is happening around us. If they are learned they should be able to be unlearned, which would free us to relearn the proper response to people and events. A key to unlearning is to be cognizant of the reaction or response and to question what it is based upon.
Is an immediate fear of someone because of their color or what their appearance in any way justified? Does the visual impression that someone new makes upon you bring with it the baggage or a pre-conceived idea of his or her behavior? How is it possible before you have even spoken to that person to have reached some conclusion about them? Those are all good questions about our learned behaviors.
If you can ask yourself those questions before you go any further in the encounter with them, you at least have the opportunity to unlearn the things that are driving your immediate reaction to them. The unlearning process begins with suppressing any action based upon your initial thoughts – the turning away, the snide remark or the frown on your face. Those were things that you may have seen or heard your parents or friends do while you were growing up which you allowed to seep into your mind and influence your behavior. They have no basis in facts or any proof that they are valid. They are just learned behaviors. The fact that you have stopped yourself to question them means that It is time to unlearn.
Unlearning means that you admit that something that you thought was true is not, or at least that something that you have been allowing to control your actions is not right, or that you are no longer comfortable letting those thoughts control your behavior. If you can build that wall to stop the old behavior before it occurs, then you can explore learning new behaviors that are based on facts or actual input from your interactions with that person.
Replacing fear with curiosity is a great start. Instead of a reaction to avoid that person out of preconceived fears, you might approach them with an excited curiosity about the things that make them different. They obviously have a different view on the world than you do and you might learn something new about the world by exploring that point of view. That is why diversity in the business world is so important. A diverse company benefits from seeing more of the differing points of view and changing their strategy and products to accommodate or include those points of view.
Just as in the business world, your life can be so much more interesting and fulfilling if you unlearn your old prejudices and open yourself up to new and exciting relationships with a more diverse group of people. You must be open to new ideas and new ways of seeing things. That openness does bring with it some risk, but the potential rewards far outweigh the risks. You may still walk away from some encounters with no desire to get to know that person further, but you will more likely have started a new relationship with someone from whom you can learn and grow as a person.
Every new point of view that you encounter and embrace gives you a slightly different perspective on the world. Instead of just marching with a sign that says “Black Lives Matter”, you may now understand why and how they matter, because you took the risk and the time to get to know them. You may never choose to dye your hair green or purple or to wear a nose ring, but if you let yourself learn, you may appreciate the point of view that thinks that is a cool look. In that appreciation of the difference between you and them, you will have grown as a person. Even making the effort to understand the fears that are driving the behavior of the far right or far left political demonstrators will help you grow. You will better understand the positions of both groups and maybe find common ground in solutions to deal with those fears. If that can lead to discussions instead of yelling; that is a good thing.
In your prayers today, ask God to calm your fears and give you the patience and courage to unlearn your old prejudices and to learn how to become a better person – the person you really want to be – and as he cute saying goes – the person that your dog thinks you are.
Start unlearning, relearning and learning anew today.