Keep an open mind…

September 27, 2017

From the Jack’s Winning Words blog comes this morning’s inspiration – “I don’t necessarily agree with everything I say.”  (Marshall McLuhan)

Jack when on to write – Sen. Everett Dirksen of Illinois was once criticized for changing his vote on a certain issue.  His response: “The only people who do not change their minds are those in asylums or cemeteries.”

Do you change your mind on things over time? That’s usually a sign of keeping an open mind, which is a good thing. People who are labeled as “prejudiced” are many times insightpeople who hold some negative opinion or dislike for some group or groups of people and who are unable or unwilling to consider a different point of view. That is not to say that you have to agree with those people or practice whatever behavior it is that offends you that they display. But, it is to say that you at least try to understand that they have a different view of the world and come to peace with the fact that those differences exist. So long as the differences in appearance or behavior are not destructive or disruptive, what real difference does it make? Keep an open mind.

In our society, prejudices are an easy to spot sign of closed minds. We have racists , homophobes, anti-immigrationists, extreme nationalists and other groups who seem toarrogant make the nightly news. It is hard to tell whether it is fear or hate that is the primary driving force behind these groups, but interviews with members of the groups quickly demonstrate their closed-minded nature. Even for what we might call “normal” people, there are often many things that might cause discomfort or anxiety just beneath the surface of their otherwise calm expressions. Keep an open mind.

Keeping an open mind means allowing things to play out without preconceived notions about the outcome. It means taking the time to listen to, evaluate and trying to understand the other person’s point of view. It doesn’t require that you convert to that point of view; only that you understand and appreciate that it exists and that it most diversitylikely presents no threat to you. In fact, study after study in the business world has shown the benefits of having a diverse workforce with a rich diversity of ideas and approaches to the same issues, as opposed to having a homogeneous workforce that s all driven by the same set of beliefs and standards (and prejudices). Keep an open mind.

As for changing your mind; that is something that is a natural consequence of opening your mind. If you live by the mantra, “It’s this way; it’s always been this way; and, it will always be this way”, you face the prospect of joining the buggy whip makers of yesteryear on the dust heap of history. Some people wear a little bracelet with the lettersWWJD WWJD on it. That stands for What Would Jesus Do and is a good way to pause and think about things before letting some preconception or prejudice dictate you actions. The bible says – “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God…” – Romans 12:2 Keep an open mind.

So, be open minded to differences and not fearful of them. Take the time to consider and appreciate the other person’s point of view. You don’t have to convert to that view; but, do try to understand it better. Be open to change, if you see that your old beliefs were wrong or ill-founded. Let go of the negatives and embrace the positives that can come out of diversity. Allow yourself the knowledge-expanding experiences that can accompany a diverse point of view. You need not follow the old American Indian advice to “walk a mile in the other person’s moccasins”, but at least mentally try those moccasins on and take enough steps in them to understand the different path that person is on. Keep an open mind.

comfort-zoneKeeping an open mind will mean getting out of your comfort zone. Comfort zones are often defined by pre-conceived notions and even prejudices.  Comfort zones have walls that are built at the edges of understanding, beyond which lies our fears, uncertainties and doubts. Comfort zones start at our mental dawn and runs until dusk, with everything beyond them hidden in the dark. You must be brave enough to venture into the dark in order to discover new things, have new experiences, make new friends and expand your knowledge. Rosa Parks put it well when she said – “I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear.” Make up your mind to Keep an open mind.

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We begins with me…

November 16, 2016

A short, original poem to get us all thorough the rest of the week.

 

You’re different from me, that I can see;

But if I accept you and you accept me,

Then, one becomes two and “I” becomes “we”.

 

We will learn from each other and find ways to agree.

When I can look through your eyes and see what you see,

The knowledge of one becomes the knowledge of we.

 

Some would divide us into the groups “us” and “them”;

Hate, fear and prejudice seem to guide their whim.

I wonder; if they met Jesus, where they would put Him?

 

He was different from them, the Pharisees would say.

He preached love and inclusion; not popular in his day.

And, He opened his arms to all; saying, “I am the way.”

 

On His message, I think we both can agree.

He accepts who we are, and that makes us we;

But, none of this happens, if I don’t start with me.

 

God, open my eyes and my mind to the One.

Let my fears, hate and prejudices all be done.

Let me see others in the light of your Son.

 

God, help me to accept others who are not like me.

Let me fully embrace the concept of “we”.

Let the life that I live shout, “we begins with me…”

 

Have a great and inclusive rest of your week.


I can see clearly now…

March 5, 2016

“Don’t judge me unless you have looked through my eyes.”  (Lucy Heartfilia), which I saw on the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

Today’s quote may be thought of as a variation of the old Native American proverb – Never criticize a man until you’ve walked a mile in his moccasins.

I think it has a slightly different bent to it, because it focuses upon how we “see” the world and perhaps how we judge or pre-judge people whose different point of view causes them to react differently to the world around them. The fact is that all of us “see” the distorted viewworld differently because we look at it through the distortions caused by the “lenses” of our experiences and knowledge, our fears and prejudices, or our hope and optimism. Some people look at it through the dark lenses of depression. Others see nothing but rainbows through the rose colored glasses of optimism. Some may see danger lurking behind every bush and tree, while others see opportunities around every corner or behind every door.

The really hard part, which today’s quote alludes to, is for us to understand another person’s point of view – what they see – especially if they are significantly different from you. If you walk into a room filled with people who look like you, you might not
points of viewimmediately see danger in the situation; but walk into a room filled with the same number of people, but one in which they are all very different from you and you might see danger and threats. For most white Americans seeing a policeman approach may cause them to pause to think if they’ve done anything wrong; but, they don’t “see” it necessarily as being threatening. However, ask a resident of Ferguson, Missouri about that scenario and you’ll get a different answer. Perhaps that is because the eyes that they see that policemen through are filled with so many tears from the past.

Maybe it’s not the seeing that is really the problem; but, rather, the labels that we attached to what we see. Those labels are mental associations that we make. Some labels are based upon experiences from our past, but some just conjured up with no basis in facts or personal experiences. Many times those labels are broadly applied stereotypes that are bigot personbased upon prejudices or misinformation. We don’t stop to really “see” the person standing n from of us because we are blinded by the labels that flash up in our minds. Our ability to “see” the good, the beauty and the interesting things about that person are obscured by our proclivity to “see” only the things defined by the labels that we have already associated with them. Our vision has joined in the wider conspiracy that we call bigotry.

It is sometimes hard, but the first step to really seeing others is to clear the mind of all of the preconceptions that you might normally carry with you. You really can’t see clearly with your eyes until you are ready to “see” clearly with your mind. Then maybe, just maybe, you’ll be ready to take the next step and be able to begin to “see” things through their eyes too. At that point, you may discover that a new set of labels appear before your eyes; labels that are associated with them “seeing” you. That may not be a pretty thing to see either.

There is a song by Johnny Nash that inspired the title to today’s post. Although Nash’s lyrics didn’t call them labels he did call them obstacles that were in his way. Once they eye on worldwere removed he could see clearly and it was a bright, bright, sunshiny day. Maybe if you can clear away the obstacles (labels) in your mind you will see more clearly, too; and you too will have a brighter day. Perhaps you’ll even be able to “see” things from the point of view of others and that will make your day and theirs better, too.

I’ll be seeing you.


Use your brain and control your mind…

February 12, 2016

“Do not call for black power or green power.  Call for brain power.”  (Barbara Jordan) – as seen on the Jack’s Winning Words blog. Jack went on to add his comments about Black History Month, which is what Barbara Jordan was alluding to in her quote.

It’s interesting that the brain helps us distinguish between colors, but it is the mind that assigns tags to those colors. Those tags may include fear or mistrust or prejudices, based solely upon color. For some that is enough for them to form opinions or to make visualizationjudgments. Yet, if we used our brains, we might ask ourselves, upon what basis of facts, other than color am I basing these feelings or opinions? Have I even talked to this person? Do I even know their name or anything about their life story? How can I have jumped to a conclusion of fear or mistrust, based solely upon the one input of color? Yet many do. Use your brain.

There is an old piece of advice that is widely circulated in signs and sayings that goes: “Engage brain before engaging mouth.” It might also apply that one should engage their brains before making up their minds, especially about other people. Color is just one differentiation between people; it just happens to be the easiest to spot. Use your brain.

Language and the way people speak is another differentiation that many use to jump to talking-2discriminatory opinions. We have had such an influx of immigration from so many foreign countries that it is almost impossible not to overhear others speaking in a language that we do not understand or with an accent that is noticeable. There is also the street slang (sometimes labeled Ebonics) that is used by a portion of the African-American population. Any of these cues can kick off an immediate reaction that is just as powerful as the recognition of the color of the individual. Those reactions are often not favorable and lead to conclusions that are just as wrong as those based solely upon color. Use your brain.

The best advice against letting these or any other differences that one might notice lead you immediately to some conclusion or reaction is to engage your brain. Think before you act or react. Learn to control your mind. The first thing that most will have to do is to calm the perception of that person somehow representing a threat to you. Unless someone walks up to you with some sort of weapon in their hand, why do you perceive them to be a threat? Is it their color? Is it the way they speak? Is it how they are dressed? Why are any of those things a threat to you? Use your brain.

The key to using your brain is to let it work without a preconceived overlay of prejudice or fear. We have turned the old saying “innocent until proven guilty” completely around andtimid perverted it through our prejudices into “guilty until they can prove themselves to be innocent.” If, instead of thinking (with our minds) that every person of color or language difference that you meet is somehow out to do you harm; it might make life more interesting and rewarding, if you went into each meeting with a new person in the frame of mind that you were going to get to know them and see what interesting things that you might learn from them. You can do that if you, Use your brain.

I suspect that the people that you jump to conclusion about get awfully tired of having to exclusionprove themselves to you somehow. They may have also jumped to conclusions about you, based upon what they see or hear from you. They may have fears about you and what you may do to them, especially if you happen to be wearing a police uniform. You might immediately say how could they think that about you? Well, duh; use your brain; what’s on the news all too often these days. “If they only got to know me”, you might think; “they wouldn’t be afraid of me.” OK, so why is the opposite not true? Use your brain.

As you go about your day and the upcoming weekend, try to be more cognizant of the boredfrequency in which you let some preconceived prejudice in your mind take control of you and shape your reactions to people. The more you become aware of it the easier it might become to at least stop and try to Use your brain.

You’ll be glad that you did.


What do you see?

August 25, 2015

“I wouldn’t have seen it if I hadn’t believed it.”  ―  Ashleigh Brilliant

What a great little quote; and how true. We all tend to “see” things through the lens of our beliefs. If they are bad digital thinkingor hateful beliefs, they are called prejudices. If they are good beliefs, they may be called optimism and sometime even Faith. Sometimes we see things through the lens of fear and they appear to be dark and foreboding. Sometimes we see things or people through eyes filled with love and they look wonderful and can do no wrong. Perhaps you are looking through eyes filled with tears, which makes everything a little blurry.

One point that Ashleigh makes in his quote is that maybe we don’t see things as they are but as we wish or believe them to be.  The old saw that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” seems to be based upon that thought. I suspect that what we choose not to see is sometimes as important what we see. A person with a positive and optimistic outlook on life may be able to look past many things as they seek to see the good in any situation or gloomy guyperson. Those who are negative in attitude will have no trouble finding bad things to see in life.

So, it seems that you have a choice in life to see what you believe in others and in life in general.  What do you see? Are you looking for the good or the bad in life? What lenses are you using to gaze at the world? Is your vision enhanced by your beliefs or does negativity dim your view. What about the visage that you provide for others? Is there a smile on your face? Is the person that they see someone that looks like it would be fun or interesting to know or someone to be avoided?  Make it easier for people to “see” you by making yourself more pleasant to look at – smile. If nothing else, they may see that smile and wonder what that is all about. Be ready to show them that what they saw is what you believe.happy going to work

So, like Ashleigh Brilliant, go out into the world today and see the things that you believe. It’s hiding in plain sight; so, it’s easy to see in people and events. Have a great and insightful day!


Do you see what I see?

December 25, 2014

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”  – Henry David Thoreau.

This time of year we hear a Christmas song with the question – Do you see what I see? I think Thoreau really had something in mind like that when he penned the line in today’s quote. One often hears in stories about crimes that police have eye witness reports that are all different, in other words the various people did not all see what the others saw. How can that be? Do you see what I see?

Without getting deeply existential about it, what we “see” when wedigital thinkinglook at something can be completely different than what another witness to the event saw, because we are both seeing it from different, personal perspectives. Perspective, in this case, is not about camera angles and instant replays; it’s really about how our life experiences and knowledge base filters and colors what we observe into what we “see.” That’s what the question is valid – Do you see what I see?

One witness at a shooting sees a man trying to surrender, while another sees the man making an aggressive move. Which is right? Maybe neither, since both are filtered and colored by the background of the observer. There are such great gulfs in cultures that a gesture made in greeting or friendship in one culture may be crowdtaken as threatening or disrespectful in another culture. Cross-cultural differences often result in awkward moments when decisions about whether to shake hands or give a hug are being pondered when someone new enters the room. I’ve experienced that a lot in family gatherings with our in-laws. They are from an eastern European background, where greetings with a hug and kiss are the norm. More than once I’ve been awkwardly expending a hand while they were approaching with open arms for a hug. We eventually get it right and I am more careful to watch now for their signals as to whether this will be a shake for a hug greeting. Do you see what I see?

But culture isn’t the only influence on what we “see” in our day-today living. The experiences that we’ve accumulated during our lives and the knowledge (hopefully wisdom) that we’ve built up also act as filters for what we see, hear and experience as we go along. There are saying about the loss of innocence as we grow up and that loss is because innocence (or ignorance, if you prefer) is supplanted by experience and knowledge. Some of that knowledge is based upon direct experiences, but quite a bit is based upon the experiences or knowledge of others that is passed down to us. Wetededy bears don’t have to experience a mauling by a real, live bear to “know” that the bear in the zoo is not the same cute and cuddly playmate that our first Teddy Bear was. We begin to “see” bears differently and we attach a certain caution about the potential danger when we observe them, especially if we ever saw them in the wild. Do you see what I see?

Unfortunately, not all of the “wisdom” that is passed between generations is good or even valid. We are not born with prejudices against people of certain color or ethnicity. Prejudice is something that we “learn” from the talk and actions of others (usually our parents and friends) and it impacts how we “see” the people that we have been conditioned to see differently. Are there caution flags that pop up in your mind when you see a person of a certain color or race? How did those get there? Do they always prove to be true? If not, of what use are they for you and how do you get rid of them? Do you see what I see?

It can take quite a bit of effort and time to retrain you mind so that it does not immediately attach false warnings or prejudices to the things that you observe – to see them differently.  A cute little article in the paper on Christmas Day focused upon a question from a child about the color of Santa Claus and an explanation santaused years ago on a TV show to explain how Santa can look like whatever he needs to look like to allow the observer to see what they what to see. Calling upon the magic of the season, the explanation given was that, as he came down the chimney into each house, Santa changed in ethnicity and color as was appropriate for that house. All the children just “saw” Santa. In this explanation, Santa was the perfect answer to the question – Do you see what I see?

But the real story of Christmas is about something that is impossible to observe with our eyes, but which can be seen if we look at it the right way. After all, how does one “see” pure love?  We may be able to observe the birth of a child, but not “see” the pure love of a God willing to sacrifice His only Son for the baby-boy-playing-with-his-footforgiveness of our sins. So, look past all of the decorations and the presents. Look beyond the trappings of the seasons and the staged events both secular and church-oriented. Peer deeply into the eyes of a newborn baby and “see” the pure and unadulterated love that is there. Do you see what I see?