We all have a (pick one: world, culture, environment) that we grew up in.
For most of us, nearly everyone in that milieu was pretty much like us. We shared the same beliefs. We had similar goals in life, even if our ways to pursue those goals might have been different.
That milieu is part of who we are. But, it’s not the “whole” world.
Keel Hunt, a columnist for the Tennessean newspaper in Nashville, talked about how diversity has been the key to that city’s prosperity. His new year’s resolution is to meet at least one person who is not like him. He discussed this in a Jan. 5, 2014, column.
Certainly, in his profession, Hunt meets a lot of folks not like him. But not everyone can say that.
Many people never leave the world in which they grew up. They never experience the culture, environments and worlds that others grew up in. Perhaps, if their children attend a school with students who are not like them, they move their children to a more homogeneous school.
This type of behavior breeds intolerance. But, today, “intolerance” has taken on new meanings.
When “Duck Dynasty’s” Phil Robertson talks about his religious and racial beliefs in public, or when a large group of people petition to have CNN’s Piers Morgan deported because of his views on gun control, it makes us re-examine what “intolerance” is.
“Intolerance” today has been comingled with free speech. Those who protest the views of Robertson and Morgan don’t watch them in large numbers. They are speaking largely to an audience of their peers, in terms of their beliefs. Those who disagree with them turn them off. It should come as no surprise that Robertson and Morgan believe what they believe.
Even though you may not agree with what they believe, or say in public, every person has to defend Robertson’s and Morgan’s rights to believe it and say it. If you disagree, turn them off. If enough people turn them off, they will pay a price not for believing what they believe, but expressing it so boldly in public.
If you follow Hunt’s idea and begin to meet people who are not like you, you may learn something. Neither you, nor they, should expect that either of your beliefs, customs, traditions etc., will change. But, neither party should presume the other is “wrong.”
We all are better people when we become an active part of the world. It takes all kinds of people to make a world, to quote an old adage. Many people in the world are different from you. They mean you no harm, in most cases. If they mean you harm, stay away from them. If you mean them harm, shame on you. Certainly, in most cultures or belief systems, most of us are taught to respect one another. There are a few cultures that teach children to avoid people because of what they look like, talk like or behave like – even when they are not misbehaving.
We learn from others. We should make it a point to learn ABOUT others. We should make it a point to live peacefully and respectfully among others who are not like us. And, yes, we should fight for the right of others to be who they are, as long as they mean no harm.
You can’t do much about others’ behavior, but you can start with your own. Believe what you want to believe, but learn more about others. You can help make the world a happier, healthier and more prosperous place for everyone. Eventually, blessings will come back to you in ways you may have never expected.
So, if you haven’t made it a practice to meet people who are not like you, try just meeting one such person. Don’t try to make him or her believe what you believe. It will never work. Instead, listen more and talk less. Each of you may learn more about each other and, perhaps, become friends. What a great world it would be if we could believe what we believe, and have an abundance of friends who are different from us.
Also, if you are well-known person, believing what you believe is certainly OK. And you are certainly free to talk about what you believe. But you might take a little extra care in how, and in what venue, you express your beliefs.

P.S. If you and your friends – those like you and those not like you – want to become prosperous, visit www.bign.com/pbilodeau. See how communities of friends of all types learn to prosper, and grow as people, by helping each other.

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