Tensions are high, norms are shifting and it feels that consistency is few and far between.
Your mind might have traveled to any number of scenarios while reading that sentence. Perhaps you are thinking about the inevitable political screaming matches you will find yourself in on Thanksgiving Day. Maybe you are recollecting on an angry internet exchange you had with a Twitter bot last week. Or maybe you are thinking about the cultural divide that is exacerbated by differences in age, religion, political affiliation, ideals, sexual orientation and more.
Or you may have — like us — instantly considered all of the above and even some more examples.
People are not the same. This is a fact of life. Though you were raised under the same roof as your sibling, I guarantee that you possess different talents, beliefs, interests and dreams.
Without turning this editorial into a sociology lecture, we want to point out that these different opinions and outlooks stem from different experiences, differing identities and differing backgrounds. The moral is that understanding and acceptance are not the same thing. You will never understand the experiences of a gay man in terms of sexuality if you are a straight man, nor will you understand the racial implications of being a Black woman if you are white. But despite these limitations, you can still choose to practice acceptance and empathy.
Accept that you do not fully understand people. Accept that others’ beliefs and morals do not make them any more or less worthy of your respect. Accept that perspective shapes an experience more so than the experience itself.
It is okay to misinterpret, misunderstand or experience confusion when exposed to things that do not fit into your idea of the way that things should be. That does not mean that your truth is everyone’s truth. You should act with the unity of your community in mind, not your personal agenda and beliefs.
You may not be in control of your feelings, but you are in control of your actions. So choose to act with kindness and treat those around you — even those with whom you disagree — with respect. Empathy is the strongest tool we possess, so use it and use it wisely.