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A new view on respect

Small girl sitting on her father's shoulders, making "eyeglasses" with her fingers
Photo by Edi Libedinsky on Unsplash

There’s a group of us who have been meeting regularly to educate ourselves on racism and support another in our efforts to eliminate racial prejudice. The other day, one woman shared this insight:

prejudice = “pre judge” respect = “see again”

We prejudge all the time, often without being aware of it. Our brains are wired to form habits. And it makes sense — it reduces the energy required to function. You don’t want to have to go through an entire decision-making process for every little thing you do. Imagine how exhausting it would be to brush your teeth:

  1. When do I pick up the toothbrush?

  2. How do hold the toothbrush?

  3. Do I open the toothpaste with the cap or poke a hole in the tube?

  4. Do I squeeze from the middle or the bottom?

  5. How much toothpaste do I use?

  6. Which teeth do I brush first?

  7. How long do I brush?

Right? Habits really help us. The problem comes when habits rule our thinking.

In the beginning, we operated from instinct and it ensured our survival:

berries = food bear = danger

But if we don’t become conscious of our thinking, these shortcuts, these habitual patterns, these pre-judgments can cause problems. Danger becomes associated with anything unusual or out of the ordinary.

unknown human = danger

But we can use this habit-forming tendency of our brains to our advantage. We can learn to use these pre-judging thoughts as triggers and choose to “see again”. We can train ourselves to replace a thought of “otherness” with thought of respect and see each other with new eyes. And very likely, that unknown human will become a friend.

When a thought of war comes, oppose it by a stronger thought of peace. ~’Abdu’l-Baha

What is your experience with “seeing again”? When was a time you gained new respect for someone? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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