“The yogi understands the faults of others by seeing and studying them first in himself.”

I once had a girl tell me that my thoughts came from a privileged point of view. Now, I don’t blame her for that and really I can see where she came from. Because she didn’t know me, she thought she knew me. We tend to do this right? When we don’t know people we conclude who they are by looking at a few pictures, browsing a few posts, or disagreeing with their beliefs.

When we disagree with people our tendency is not to understand why they think the way they do. This is because when we do this we are really choosing to learn more about why we believe they way we do. You can only understand your own beliefs if you can understand why someone else believes differently.

So instead, we jump to the conclusion that they think differently than us because they fail to see what we see. This is not necessarily true though. I might see exactly what you see but perceive it differently. In fact, I might come from a privileged life just like you but we still have very different beliefs. Or, I might come from privilege and you might come from poverty and we have very similar beliefs. What is most important is to understand why.

It’s very easy to judge someone by what we see on the surface. What isn’t easy is to get to know someone, to understand them, and to converse with them. Converse about your disagreements, beliefs, morals, values, and the most awful – politics. When I say converse I mean to engage with each other in a respectful manner.  To listen to one another, to engage a dialogue, to learn! Not to argue, criticize, or judge. Sometimes, this is not fun or easy but it is necessary. This is what I have always done and this is why although I am “privileged” to some I do not have a privileged point of view. I have an active listening point of view. Now, what does that mean?

It means I engage, I read, I listen, I actively try to understand the people who grew up differently than me, who believe differently than me, and who faced obstacles I did not face. When I talk with them I try not to cast judgment because I won’t learn anything that way. Have I done this before? Yea! Have I gotten into heated debates with people instead of understanding why we were disagreeing? Yea! It wasn’t worth it. I didn’t feel satisfied at the end even if I felt “right.” Have you ever had this feeling?

So from now on, take the time to understand both sides of a story, a court opinion, or a news interview. I do this and I think about it. I am friends with people who are different than me because they help me. I learn from them and I respect these people, their opinions, their story, their journey. Sometimes what I learn changes my point of view and other times it simply doesn’t. But, I still walk away with a new understanding and I always learn something about myself!

The one person I really learned this from is my father. The man who raised me with a “privileged” life was never privileged. He faced the hardest of obstacles and overcame them. He taught me that nothing is ever given, it is earned. He taught me to never take my privilege and ride it as a point of view.

Instead, my Dad taught me the reasons he thinks the way he does but he gave me the opportunity to go learn otherwise. He taught me to engage others and to constantly seek out an opportunity to learn more. As a result, my Dad and I have come to disagree on a lot of things. This is important though because my Dad never forced me to believe what he believes. I think he respects that I can learn things on my own and find reasons to believe what is right for me. It reminds him of his own journey. My Dad and I engage in conversation a lot about politics, health, and life in general. We disagree a lot but after discussion, I always learn and I always question what I believe. I really think about what I believe and why. That is what I love about active listening. It encourages self-reflection and self-study.

At this point in life, my Dad is very firm in his beliefs whereas I am still in the process of learning what I truly believe. So many people are in this phase of self-reflection and growth. This process is hindered when we are fearful or ashamed to grow and to really reflect on our inner self. Society has a way of hindering this process too. When we change our mind or open our mind to something new we are often criticized for it. We are questioned.

We all want the motto “the past is the past” to apply to us but in return, we do not to apply it to others. We are hypocritical in this way all the time. We want others to afford us the benefit of the doubt but don’t give the same in return. Take some time to reflect on this and in the future allow your mind to be calmed knowing that the past IS the past. More importantly, allow others to feel that from you. If they tell you they have changed give them the benefit of believing that, accepting that, or respecting that change. Maybe you can learn from them.

We cannot move on, we cannot grow, and we cannot change if we dwell on old thoughts, feelings, and experiences. I truly feel like some people hesitate to change because they are afraid that people might not believe they have changed. That should not matter and change should be welcomed with open arms. Even if the change you desire is not welcomed you should make the change if it is right for you, right for your future, and right for your journey.

The first step to experience change and growth in yourself is to reflect on who you are and what you believe in. Continue this process of self-reflection by learning from other people and you will learn about yourself.

self-reflection

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