"I do not like that man. I must get to know him better." Abraham Lincoln
I'm a Christian. Regrettably, I've sometimes allowed that to color my viewpoints of other religions, other people, other worldviews. I found Lincoln's insight on a box of tea a couple of months back. I've been thinking about getting past my stereotypes and first (flawed?) impressions ever since.
I attended a professional development seminar at work yesterday, discussing "The Four Agreements" by Don Miguel Ruiz with about twenty other random colleagues. I expected it to be a book about achieving better communication skills with my students. It was that, but it also turned out to contain a significant amount of "new age" and "relativist" type ideas that I don't really agree with. With a strongly Christian background, I've actually never sat down with a book on either of those topics, considering them more or less devilish. I decided that rather than cancel out of the reading and discussion, I'd try and get to know the ideas a bit better.
I don't like most of the worldviews that Ruiz put forth in the book. But because I read the book, and then sat down to discuss it with others, I discovered a few things -
1) For all of the differences I saw, there were a striking number of similarities between Ruiz's beliefs and my own. I am sure that we could talk for hours.
2) On the other hand, allowing myself to be confronted with such a different belief set helped me sort through what I believe surprisingly clearly.
2) Our discussion at work wasn't at all "weird" or "anti-God" - in fact, others tied in what they had read to verses from the Bible, sermons on Sunday.
3) Talking about the text gave me a chance to get to know many other people from work, who were drawn to open up about their life views, values, experiences. I am certain that a fairly different group would have shown up at a "Bible study".
The thought that I took away from the book and the day? It was the third agreement: Don't make assumptions. Have the courage to ask questions.
Don't like someone, don't like what they believe, don't like what they said? I'm going to continue to work at following Lincoln's example and do the really difficult thing - get to know them better.