Posted on May 2, 2016
The Benefit of Our Similarities and Differences
How easily do you notice your similarities and differences to the people around you? We are programmed to see patterns, our brains naturally pick them up. Yet, if we only focus on one side of the pattern we miss something important.
How can our similarities and differences benefit us?
Recognizing the ways in which we are similar can help us not feel ostracized from one another. Over the last 50-60 years, our culture has been cultivating separateness, where we are striving for some ideal that often feels unattainable. Through these aspirations, many people are devaluing each other to climb higher, belittling others to make themselves feel better, or blaming others for their own inequities. Although we will each encounter different struggles or challenges in our lives, we are not all that different. We are all human and have the same needs of survival; food, shelter, clothing, and relationships.
Back in my 20’s when working at a bank in downtown Edmonton, was the first time in my life I noticeably acknowledged so many different types of people. Yet, I an awareness kept popping into my mind about the essence of our similarities, that our physical selves, our needs, were so similar. We are all in this life together. Though we often feel separate because of our individual lives, we all have this thread of connection in our humanity. Through our human connection, we can see that we are all the same. We are all trying our best to make our way through life. When we can see this, the world feels a bit smaller. You can feel closer to people you don’t even know, nor may ever know, but inside can relate to them, even without knowing their personal story.
If we can let go of judgment of one another and recognize our similarities, we can help one another survive, to be better, to do better and create stronger communities.
This is where our differences matter the most.
By noticing our differences, we have an opportunity to encourage each other to offer our unique gifts and talents to the world. Each of us has at least one, if not a few, gifts that are meant to use for the benefit of others. I believe this is our true job; to cultivate our talents, gifts, and strengths by learning and growing with them. Doing this serves our highest purpose and the world around us.
How do we recognize these unique gifts and talents? A while back I read a book called Strengths Finder. In it Tom Rath talked about our innate talents as being those gifts that we do easily that are so natural that we often think everyone can do them as well. It can be surprising when someone tells us that they find that thing we do challenging. These are our windows of opportunity, to learn how to share these gifts. But only through recognizing and acknowledging our differences can we come to value that which makes each of us unique.
When we feel our natural talents at work, it feels good. We are happy. We become fulfilled!
How then, do we keep both of these in mind and not separate ourselves or keep our talents hidden, and instead encourage each other to give our gifts, while remembering we are all doing our very best given what we have learned and experienced so far? One statement stands out to me.
Acknowledge our similarities and value our differences.
By creating a community culture where we remember that we are all in this together, by letting go of old patterns of judgment, and empowering each other to fulfill our individual gifts, we can lift each other up and feel the goodness that transpires for the whole.
What can you do today to help create this mind shift?
Here’s one idea… When you find yourself or hear someone else judge someone for being different, ask yourself or them, “I wonder what makes that person special that they offer the world?”
Only together can we make this world an even more amazing place to live. Are you with me?
with love and gratitude,