In our previous article “Unique Individuals,” we discussed how the differences in talents, abilities, circumstances, interests, and personalities make individuals unique and how that is beneficial to society.
In this article, we will take a look at what it means to truly embrace the differences in people. All the differences previously mentioned must be fully embraced plus differences in body styles, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, gender, choice of food, and even political beliefs.
This means far more than saying that you are open and that you respect diversity. It actually means walking the walk, which is more complicated than most people realize.
It’s Not Easy
Truly embracing differences means respecting other people’s rights to believe, say and do whatever they authentically believe within the constraints of the law. It becomes complicated, however, when beliefs clash. In this case, we must be very careful not to say that one person’s right is more important than another person’s right, which happens frequently in today’s society.
Right And Wrong
Although a given belief might be more or less accepted by society, doesn’t mean that the other person doesn’t have a right to have the opposite belief. Neither belief, however, should be used to threaten or harm others. Even those that hold the most accepted beliefs are in the wrong when they try to use their beliefs to harm others.
Likewise, suppression of opinion is against the foundation of our country. It may seem like the right thing to do to keep unpopular or negative opinions quiet. However, this is not only against our governing rules, but also sets a very dangerous precedent. The problem is that once suppression of voices is allowed, other voices may be suppressed. And, one day . . . that voice may be yours!
Truly Embracing Diversity
Thus, it is critically important to be open to allowing people to express their opinions. That, however, is only one step toward truly embracing all people. To truly value diversity, you must also listen to opposing beliefs and opinions with the mindset of seeking to understand.*
Sometimes you have to look past negativity or roughness of presentation to understand the other person’s perspective. This can be a considerable amount of work. However, without this effort, a person cannot truly understand the other person’s perspective. Thus, they cannot legitimately speak out against that person or the person’s ideas.
The bottom line is that it is important that we truly seek to understand opposing beliefs, opinions, and life circumstances. It is through this understanding that we grow as individuals and as a society.
* Concept by Stephen Covey . . . Seven Habits of Highly Effective People