3. Tolerance and understanding.
As some of you may know, I am a slightly strong-headed individual… I’m sensitive, take things too personally; I’m open and very honest with what I’m feeling and at times I can come off as a little harsh to those around me.
There’s a difference that I’ve learned recently between assertiveness and aggression. Assertiveness is when you are confident in your decisions without being combative. I am positive and self-assured; yet, I’m particularly aggressive when it comes to voicing my opinions and feelings. My annoyance for those around me has only increased in recent years –even those that are not directly affecting me. If another’s opinions are directly in contrast with my own, I take it personally –I feel that their judgments are aimed straight at me. It’s thoughtless and rash to react in this way and I’ve come to recognize that.
As with any experience, I aim to look for the meaning and the lesson behind it. Of course it can be very difficult to look past infuriating moments to get to the core of its message. For example, in my office, it is quite common for openly racist, sexist, and elitist remarks to fly around constantly each day. It has become a very harsh environment to be exposed to.
I am of Mexican ethnicity and I have never caught on to learning Spanish. When racist comments are made regarding Mexican people, I make a point to remind them who I am. However, their dismissive responses are always, “We know, but you’re not that kind of Mexican,” or “You’re not really Mexican.”
There have been discussions expressing their opinions of impoverished, poor people –they believe that their financial standing is merely fault of their own and that they are lazy.
There have even been appalling statements made to the extent that any woman that claims she was raped is simply lying.
While all of this is discussed in front of me, I sit there, shocked and disgusted, attempting to keep my mouth shut. I know that voicing my difference of opinion will only cause friction and possible combative arguments. I realize that I alone may not be able to change their minds. The cost of speaking up is too high.
There is a reason why I am so passionate about what I believe in. When there are certain injustices in the world and the notion, “Someone should do something about this,” pops into our minds, we are meant to be that someone.
I understand my purpose, yet I am still frustrated with this anger that I feel when these comments arise. Tolerance and understanding is a lesson that I am currently being presented with. It is an open-ended understanding that I have not yet acquired and it could take my whole lifetime for me to comprehend. What am I meant to learn from these unpleasant people?
I’ve been pondering my moral dilemma for a few days and decided to ask a well-intentioned friend for his opinion. He said:
“You don’t have to be tolerant of their views but to get past the anger towards these people, an effort should be made to understand them instead. When we can recognize why another thinks a certain way, we don’t have to agree with them, but we can at least have consideration for where they’re coming from.”
I feel that his response was expressed perfectly! Our opinions, our beliefs, our emotions –they are each uniquely our own. We are shaped and molded by our personal experiences. Learning and growing to understand the distinct differences of others is the first step towards empathy. We do not have to agree with everyone. However, it would better ourselves and those around us –our communities, our states, our nations, and our world –to make an effort to understand each other. Acknowledgement of another’s struggles could be the missing key that is needed to expand our empathy and compassion–at the very least, it could diminish the anger that we feel towards others.