Tolerance & Compassion (3rd of 3 parts): Overcoming Our Biases, Seeing the Whole Person

What are your biases?  We all have them.  If you think you don’t, you may need to dig deep.

Does the way other people look, speak, dress and move affect how you relate to them?

As an exercise one day, look at each person you see on the street, at school or in the workplace with an eye on what makes them different, unique or odd.  Look in the mirror.  What makes you different?  If you’re having trouble identifying what makes you strange and goofy and you have teenagers at home, they’ll be happy to help you out.   You’ll soon recognize that we’re all a little goofy.  If perfectly advanced aliens landed on Earth, they would call it the Planet of the Goofs.

If you find your prejudices and xenophobia keep you from giving someone else the respect we each deserve, try empathy.  Realize that the other person is a complete human being. Imagine their personal struggles. This is someone else’s child, parent, cousin or uncle.  Doesn’t every one of your friends and family deserve the same level of compassion and respect?

At the swimming pool, I have friends of many ethnic backgrounds ranging in age from the 20s to the 80s.  Most I know by their first names but I also know them at a depth greater than you might imagine.  Over seemingly casual daily conversations over the years, we share our life stories, our values, how we’ve seen the world change and the joys of life – our families and hobbies.

My daughter has a friend with a learning disability.  I asked her what they do at school to help her fit in.  “What do you mean?” she asked.  “She’s always included, and she does fit in.”

When we allow ourselves to get to know one another over time, we recognize the whole person; the differences recede in importance.  Each of us is beautiful in our own way, and each deserves not only tolerance but respect and compassion.


About Davidicus Wong

I am a family physician. I write a weekly newspaper column, Healthwise for the Vancouver Courier, Burnaby Now, Royal City Record and Richmond News.
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