Fractured and segmented. Cut off and disconnected. Further apart than ever. Looking around today in America, listening to people and taking in the dark news, this is what I see, and I know I’m not the only one. 

The problem? We spend more time judging others at a glance than we do investing time in getting to know them. It’s too much work to really meet them, so instead, we glance and judge with no effort. We put people in boxes based on what we see on the outside rather than spending time learning what makes them tick on the inside. The result? We’re missing out on creating amazing relationships because we’re letting our prejudices and past dictate our futures. 

Here’s what I mean…

When you woke up this morning, every experience you’ve ever had in your past rolled out with you. We carry these things with us, whether we know it or not, like it or not. Our past, and all the experiences we’ve ever had, is knitted into our being. As much as today is a clean slate, it comes with a little baggage. This is true for me, and it’s true for you. There’s no way around it. 

Stop and consider the home you grew up in, your parents, and siblings. Then shift to the schools you attended, your teachers, and your classmates. Think about the community you grew up in, and the part of the world you live in today. Then layer in things like race, sexuality, financial status, politics… There’s a lot knitted in there, and all those layers make each of us very different. We can’t be the same when our experiences are so diverse.

And so, with our differences front and center, we end up self-selecting into groups of people who are like us. We’re all searching for our tribe, and we’re attracted to people who share our values, experiences, and world-view. As part of that process, we’re constantly making judgments about the people we meet, measuring them to see if they fit our values, attitudes, and beliefs. Are they like me or different? 

Different is dangerous.

It comes with challenges. It’s not safe or comfortable. It stretches us.

That kind of attitude is human nature. It might be normal. It’s a mechanism we use to protect ourselves. Someone smarter than me could get into the psychology behind this, but here’s what I do know… Our judgment and fear of our differences is dividing us as humans, and even worse, keeping us from creating relationships with people who don’t look like us, act like us, or seem like us. Judgment is causing us to miss out on incredible opportunities. 

And that’s my point. I don’t want to miss those fantastic opportunities. I don’t want my past experiences and prejudices to keep me from creating great relationships with other humans. Spending time getting to know one another matters. Not judging based on outward appearance or the “group” we come from matters. Loving people matters. 

I’ve spent a lot of time trying to teach this lesson to my middle-school twins. Rather than judging people, simply investing some energy into getting to know someone is the best way to choose if you like them or don’t. And, as long as you’ve spent that energy, it’s ok to decide that they’re not a good fit for your life. We don’t have to like everybody or let everyone into our lives. But judging them before we’ve really met them shuts down any chance of building a relationship.

Ellen DeGeneres nailed this when people challenged her this week about her friendship with George W. Bush. “When I say be kind to one another, I don’t mean be kind to the people who think the same way you do. I mean be kind to everyone,” she said.

It’s that simple. If we stay segmented, divided, and disconnected, we’re screwed. If we continue to build walls and judge each other with bias, we’re done. If we can’t have conversations and build relationships with people who don’t look or act like we do, we’ll continue to fracture and move apart. 

The Takeaway

Spend some time this week getting to know someone that is different than you. It’s up to us as individuals to break down the walls of race, sexuality, financial status, and politics… and start building the relationships that change the world.