Opinions, prejudices and bad habits…

May 17, 2019

From a recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog comes this bit of sage advice – “We accumulate our opinions at an age when our understanding is at its weakest.”  (G.C Lichtenberg).

I took the liberty to add prejudices and bad habits to the list in my title for this post. It is unfortunate that so many young people are exposed to, and influenced by, others to form those opinions, prejudices and habits before they have developed the intellectual capability to make decisions on their own. The recent case of the teenager who decided to go against the wishes of his mother and be vaccinated is an example. His mother’s ill-considered notions that vaccines are bad for children put him at risk and he eventually developed the intellectual capability to see that for himself and decide on a different course of action.

Unfortunately, many never seem to re-look at or rethink  things that influenced them at a arrogantyoung age to become opinionated or prejudiced about certain things and people. They just continue throughout their lives to jump to conclusions about people or events that are driven by unsupported opinions or prejudices. Some look back at a lifetime of misconceptions with regret when they get older. They finally see how fear or mistrust that was fueled by prejudices held them back from meeting or knowing some really great people with whom they crossed paths in life.  They see missed opportunities for friendships or even relationships. There is a melancholy sadness about finally realizing how one’s own ignorance or misconceptions have dulled what could have been a much richer life.

Perhaps you have been living with bad opinions, habits and prejudices and may not even realize it. Take the time to stop and ask yourself a few questions. When I encounter people who are different from me, do I have a reflexive response to draw away or girl with nose chainbecome concerned and fearful? Why? What is it about their appearance or actions that I find threatening or distasteful? Why? Do I avoid going to certain places or events because I fear encountering “different” people? Why? Do I immediately become “on guard” when encountering people of a certain color or who are dresses a certain way. Does seeing a person with blue or pink hair immediately bring to mind something bad about them? Why? Do I really have an opinion of my own about events or news that I hear or do I immediately call to mind something that I was told by someone else?

Once you stop to think about what drives you to have reactions to people or events you can begin to see which of those reactions are actually yours and which might just be Controllingopinions or prejudices that were “planted” in you by others. That is the first step towards both understanding and towards formulating your own opinions. It is a major step towards taking back control of your life. You can’t do it all at once. Perhaps take the time at the beginning of each week to reexamine a habit or opinion or prejudice that you have fallen into and resolve to either prove or debunk the basis for it. The young man who decided to be vaccinated did a lot of research on the subject and concluded that his mother was wrong in her opinion against vaccines.

There are many things in your life – opinions, fears, prejudices and bad habits – that will not withstand intellectual scrutiny. See if you can be debunk one of those in your life each week and things will become much more pleasant for you. You can still have visualizingopinions, but they will now be informed opinions. You may still have habits, but make them good habits. There is no reason to still have prejudices. Thinking about, and understanding these things in life, will shed light on the dark corners of your mind and drive out the bad things that lurk there. Understanding is the antithesis of the ignorance that drives those behaviors.

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Start with a mirror…

January 3, 2019

In today’s post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, Jack Freed used this quote – “I haven’t got the slightest idea how to change people, but I still keep a long list of prospective candidates just in case I should figure it out.”  (David Sedaris)

Most of us have probably had thoughts of “changing” someone that we meet during the day, whether it be making physical changes to the way that they look to changing their behavior. Many marriages end in divorce because one of the parties was unsuccessful in getting their mate to change into what they wanted them to become. Perhaps it is human nature, or human ego, that leads us to believe that we can effect change in others.look in miror

The reality is that the only person that we have the power to change is the one that we see when we look into a mirror. We can change how we interact and react in our encounters with others. We have the power to change or abandon the preconceived notions that we have when we encounter someone who looks different or is dresses different or who talks differently from us. We can control or stop the rush to judgement over the statements or actions of others. We can change that person that we see in the mirror.

Our interactions with others, and our reactions to others, is based off our own frame of reference – our backgrounds and the circumstance that lead us to this place and time. Somehow, we have less problem giving deference to the differences in people that we can identify as having come from a foreign land. After all, they didn’t come from the complimentsame frame of reference that we have. Yet the same idea holds true for all of the people around us; we just don’t give a break to those that we see as coming from environments that we believe are the same as ours. But are those environments really the same? We can change that person that we see in the mirror.

Is the difference in background environments from ours any less dramatic for someone that grew up in an urban housing project than for someone who just immigrated from another part of the world? Why would we give the benefit of the doubt and try harder to “understand” the one and not try with both? Is there any reason to become immediately boredsuspicious of or frightened by someone of color or someone who is very large? How can I explain my reaction to the color of someone’s hair or the clothes that they choose to wear? These things are not things that I can change; however, I can change how I let them affect me and how I react to them. We can change that person that we see in the mirror.

The first step to making changes to that person you see in the mirror is stopping to understand that a reaction has just been triggered within you to something in that person whom you just encountered. Was it fear? Was it a prejudice? Was it a lack of understanding of their frame of reference?  Is it real or imagined? We can change that person that we see in the mirror.

Once you stop and take that moment to recognize your initial reaction, you can begin to make the changes in you that control those reactions. If you can recognize and deal with those triggers before you actually act or react, you will have gone a long way towardsfacing new day becoming a better person and will likely find that your life becomes much more satisfying. It’s like moving from a monochromatic view of the world into a full Technicolor world. Living without the fears and prejudices that were dictating your life will allow you to embrace the diversity around you and learn from the different backgrounds of those that you encounter. We can change that person that we see in the mirror.

life-choicesSo, don’t worry about changing others. Look in the mirror and try to get that person straightened out. You’ll be glad that you did. We can change that person that we see in the mirror…and they will be a better person for that change.


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.


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!