I am human. This means I’m going to make mistakes. I’m going to say the wrong things. I’m going make assumptions about people or situations. I’m going to have skewed impressions. I’m going to be lacking in my understandings.
So TEACH ME.
Please don’t yell at me. Don’t call me stupid. Don’t belittle or dismiss my words – even if they’re wrong. I need you to take a breath and then tell me why my words are hurtful. I need you to pause a moment then show me a version of the story I didn’t know before. Take my hand and walk me down a path of new understanding. I want to understand. I want to learn. But I can’t do that if people will only shout at me and tell me I’m wrong. Knowing I’m wrong is only half the story. I will be no better, no farther ahead in my perceptions. I need you to lead me to a new awareness. That is where recognition and growth can happen.
If you are on the suffering side of an issue, I know it sounds unfair of me to ask more of you. But, I can only understand life from where I’ve lived it. No level of empathy can give me a complete realization of what someone else has encountered. But, when you open your heart to me and tell me your story I can experience similar emotions to what you’ve felt. I can see the pain in your eyes, I can hear the joy in your voice. I can open my heart to you and sit with you in the unfair experience or broken memories. Then I can walk with you to a better place.
If you are filled with anger or hate over an injustice, it can feel cruel of me to swat away your blame. But, blame doesn’t heal my ignorance – or your pain. I can’t change the errors of someone else. But, if you engage me in conversation – where we take turns honestly listening to each other, where the listening is even more important than the talking – I will begin to grasp why you feel such anger and loathing. There is a chance I will realize the depth of your pain. And, perhaps, you will gain awareness of why I couldn’t see the story the same as you.
My life this far has shaped me into this person before you. I don’t choose to be ignorant out of spite. I don’t choose to be naive out of antipathy. I have a very limited scope. I grew up in a small, homogeneous, farm town. I grew up in a time after the end of rampant segregation but before female Supreme Court Justices. My formative years were spent blissfully unaware of pleas and plights of disenfranchised parties around our nation and world. I seldom read the paper (it felt far too depressing to me) and the internet had not yet been invented. I have not traveled much. I have not (until recently) read much. I stayed in my lane. That’s what I thought I was supposed to do. That’s how I was taught to be a polite citizen. I understand life differently now. I’m trying to open my views to everything that the world has been fighting while I kept my eyes down. I have a lot of catching up to do.
But, I need your help. I want to be better. I want to understand life from your side of the issues. We may not agree on solutions or key points, but I still want to know what it’s like in your lane. I want to know why you are passionate about things. I want to know what shaped you into the person you are. I want to know how I can help you be your best self (or at least not hinder that process for you). And I want you to know how you can help me.
So, please forgive my tired questions. Excuse my language faux pas and misguided efforts. I mean no disrespect. I am trying. I will fail. I am a toddler in your world. Take my hand and tell me I don’t need to be scared. Show me the books that will help me understand. Tell me the story again. Repeat it over and over until I absorb it into myself. If you take the time to teach me, I promise I will learn in time. And then I will share your story along with mine.
Teach me. I want us to live in harmony – many notes playing their own music, enhancing the sounds of each other. Harmony can reside even in dissonance when we remember that we are each just one part of the whole. Play your part proudly, but teach me how to hear what you hear.
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