What is the cost of revealing who I am?
Will you now view me as a label? Will all you knew about me before dissolve in the revelation of the label I revealed on Monday? Have you put me in a box I wasn’t in before?
How often do we glue labels onto people and never see past the labels to their hearts?
How often do we have a relationship with someone only to discover they are something or have something, and suddenly we attach a label and the label nullifies the reality of our relationship?
How often do we have preconceived notions of a word that skews our perception of people to the extent our understanding of them perpetuates inaccuracies of their wholeness for generations?
The blue portion of the pie chart to the left is our assumptions. The red portion is what we don’t know about an individual member of a group of people about whom we have preconceived opinions based on distorted ideas. These ideas can come from adopting flawed historical perspectives, from biased talking heads or simply from “group think” rather than taking the time and initiative to conduct our own research and reflection, and form our own relationships.
We must begin to do our own research, looking at both sides of an issue, weighing our own values against so-called labels. We must discern truth and reality from hyperbole, fiction and yellow journalism (journalism based upon sensationalism and crude exaggeration to attract readers).
We must begin to move from automatic reaction and anger toward reflection and seeking common ground. If we don’t, we will never discover the truth in what we don’t know. We will remain in ignorance and denial, and continue to base our decisions and relationships on slices of partial truth. We must be willing to do the work it takes to look in the mirror and tell the truth about ourselves.
We must establish and consider our own relationships with individuals and how deeply those relationships pull on our hearts. We must be willing to take a deeper look into the wider area of the pie chart in order to expand our understanding and find common ground. We must be willing to tear down walls and build bridges into unknown territory one person at a time.
Illness, pain and decades of hurt are invisible. Extending the hand of understanding comes down to putting fear aside and offering a crumb of compassion, a morsel of love. It’s a choice we make to to stop pretending to ignore the suffering of others.
It’s how we begin to come together, one person at a time.