Seek to Understand

Our lives are rich tapestries, interwoven with encounters and exchanges. Sometimes, these encounters allow us to revel in the comforting glow of common ground. At other times, they can thrust us into the raw and unfamiliar territory of differing viewpoints.

Recently, I was talking to a family friend who is in his 70s. He is a genuinely good person. Yet, we found ourselves at odds over a variety of views and perspectives.

It would be easy to label our conversation as a clash between two generations or a disagreement over modernity versus traditional values. However, I choose to perceive it as an opportunity, a moment that encouraged me to delve deeper into the realm of understanding.

This person, while resistant to the tide of the new, wasn’t born with this mindset. Over years of witnessing change – some wonderful, some worrisome – his perception gradually solidified into a belief that most new things were intrinsically flawed or bad.

I don’t share his perspective, but it was enlightening to explore his thoughts and feelings. To better understand why he held such views, I sought refuge in the annals of history.

Think, for example, about the Industrial Revolution. It was a time of significant change that brought unprecedented growth. But it also brought social and environmental disruption, eliciting resistance and fear amongst many. Even today, we grapple with the consequences of that era.

Fast forward to our Digital Age. It mirrors the pattern: incredible innovations that alter our lives in profound ways, but also raise concerns about data privacy, screen addiction, and the disappearance of traditional jobs.

No wonder his worldview seems colored by skepticism.

We could argue that the world today is vastly better than it was a century ago – from advancements in technology and healthcare to greater social freedoms and rights. But such an argument might ring hollow to those who perceive these changes through the lens of loss or danger.

And so, the task at hand is not about swaying his opinion or offering counter-arguments. Instead, it’s about fostering empathy, asking questions, and genuinely listening. It’s about exploring his fear of change, his nostalgia for a bygone era, and his wariness of the unfamiliar.

You see, there’s no definitive path to understanding. We don’t always reach the destination, but it’s the journey that counts. Every question we ask, every attempt to grasp a perspective different from ours, broadens our understanding of the world and of each other.

Even when we fail to comprehend, we succeed in demonstrating respect for the complexity and diversity of human experience.

Embrace the questions. Seek the wisdom in different perspectives. Cherish the journey.

Further reading: I highly recommend Jonathan Haidt’s “The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion” (Buy Here on Amazon)

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