Our views, opinions, beliefs, and morals are the very threads that determine our individuality. While a world of differences is precisely what we subscribe to for inclusivity and diversity, it’s fair to say that we are naturally drawn towards those that mirror our own manners.
There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, there’s everything right with it.
But what happens when our views become all-inclusive, and we no longer value the opinions of others? What might occur if we refuse to peruse beyond our windowless tower for fear of disagreement or conflict?
In a world that faces destructive climate change, a deadly pandemic, gender and race-related discrimination, and diminished freedom of speech, a far more profound problem is emerging. Dialogue has become polar in its very constitution. The once grey areas have merged into the landscape.
Did you hear about the feminist that talked of empowering women?
She was a self-declared misandrist.
How about the chap that went to a Black Lives Matter rally?
He said all white people were racist.
What about the guy who thought The Beatles were God’s gift to music? He despised The Rolling Stones.
What has happened to make us all so polar in our views?
Can we no longer appreciate the two varied sides of a coin without fondness for one side equating to guttural hatred for the other?
Black and white thinking has become customary within the last half-decade. The Psych’s call it “splitting.” The grey areas have ceased to exist, and absolutes have replaced them.
What happens if I like The Beatles and The Stones? Is that even allowed anymore?
More than ever, we seek membership to an all-inclusive club that permits entry based on the assumption that fixed and unchanging opinions are held. Fluidity is banned amongst members; our think tank must be wholly devoted to all that is related.
While this phenomenon has always been present (and none of us are innocent), it has become far more prevalent over the past few years. The global “vaccine debacle” has magnified this. You have to either be in the pro-vax team or the anti-vax team. You can’t simply make your own decision and let others do the same. Not a chance. You decide to protect yourself, your loved ones and the rest of the human race, or you think it’s all a massive cover-up, and you refuse to be injected with a relatively new poison.
Choose your side. Eliminate the out-group.
Black and white thinking is not only unhelpful but is also devastatingly destructive. It prevents us from experiencing the richness and glorious nuances that life throws at us.
When we can no longer debate without judgment, our relationships begin to falter, and we quickly become resentful towards others. A bad day forecasts an inevitable impending doom. An argument denotes the end of a friendship. A difference of opinion means that all is lost.
Those that are slaves to binary thinking can eliminate such patterns and continue to live fulfilled and balanced lives. The most effective way to do this is to start listening to what people have to say.
We live in an over-sharing, social media culture that firmly dictates our presence. Like Squid Game competitors, we fight not for survival but for our voices to be heard, our faces to be seen. Often, this weakens the use of our ears as we compete for first place in a tacitly assumed war of words.
As patronizing as it may sound, listen to what people are telling you. Absorb the richness of their conversation, allow yourself to drown in their stories. Listen, and hear what is being said.
It is only when we hear that we truly begin to understand others without judgment. Listen to someone explain the foundations of their views, and perhaps it will become clear why their journey has led them to where they are.
There is one certainty. Another’s experience will be fundamentally different from yours. It is for that reason alone that we must learn to value the opinions of others.