Chances are, your everyday involves being around people who are different than you. The spectrum of those differences might include culture, gender, religion, politics, generations, ethnicity, worldview, career, education, paycheck, marital status… you name it. Though we might find others who share our life stage, interests, and other similarities, it just takes a short while for us to quickly realize that no two people are truly identical, either in how they look, or how they think, feel or express their individuality, or live out their life. What that means is… there’s a whole lot of different going on!
Amidst the differences, I’ve noticed a few common trends and tendencies “out there” that we might want to reconsider. Not fully knowing what to do with those who are different than ourselves (including those in our own households, circles, workplaces, and beyond), it would seem, we can be prone to…
· lumping people into certain baskets,
· laughing at certain characteristics, and then,
· erroneously hoping and believing we can live a harmonious life with and around them.
You know what I’m talking about. Particular words and terms. They’re usually plural nouns and/or adjectives that, by themselves, are fundamentally harmless. But, when employed with a particular intent or emotional charge (like sarcasm, cynicism, etc.), strip people of their uniqueness so that they land into a bin of collective “I’ve got you pegged”, “yah, I know your kind”, and “you’re all alike”. The baskets range from being somewhat lighthearted and subtle to dark and pointed in nature. Try saying one or more of the following, preceded by a sigh: Men. Women. Millennials. Boomers. Conservatives. Liberals. I chose these particular words, because they represent some of the most common examples of the kinds differences that I tend to hear people sound off on (verbally or online) on a day-to-day basis. Perhaps your list might be different but, in my little corner of the world, differences between genders, generations, and politics seem to be categories people like to lump others into.
Laughter is an interesting thing. It can certainly be medicine. It can also be poison. I submit, the difference can be determined by asking: Is the laughter AT someone?
Before we examine that question, let’s briefly unpack the examples of “different” I mentioned above…
· Men & Women. Yes, they are both human… but that is about the only way they are similar – there is a ton of proven research on the subject (so don’t send me hate email). They aren’t just anatomically different. Their cognitive functions are unalike (their brains, literally, operate uniquely). How they do work differs. The nature of how they communicate is different.
· Millennials & Boomers. When one was born has a significant impact on how they live out their existence. Consider these two generations (yes, I know, there are more, I just needed to narrow things down for the sake of time) – one was born between 1981 and 2000, the other between 1946 and 1964. They have experienced and been influenced by radically different historical milestones. They have grown up in a completely different world. Their core values typically differ. Their thoughts on leadership and authority are generally unalike. Their methods (and preferences) of communication are different.
· Conservatives & Liberals. I’m not trying to open a can of worms here. Promise. Typically referenced in the realm of politics (and thrown around by network news channels), these identifying terms represent two differing perspectives or ways of thinking on a variety of matters. Generally speaking, those who identify, in part or more, with either vantage point, have distinguishable convictions and behaviors in support of those beliefs. The most notable differences include: the role government, traditional/progressive values, the structure of society, morality, the economy, vision of the future, etc.
Chances are, as you read this bulleted list and the descriptions, you found yourself nodding your head (or maybe even rolling your eyes). Why? Because you’ve probably experienced how those differences can, and do, affect day-to-day living (we all have stories we could tell, yikes!). As I stated earlier, and I’m sure you agree… there’s a whole lot of different going on! Problem is, those differences, more often than not, become divisive. How? By our treatment of, and responses to, those very differences.
I submit that, not knowing what to do with how we are different (because of unfamiliarity, confusion, awkwardness, negative experiences, varying perspective or opinion, lack of agreement, misunderstanding, etc., etc.) we can often default to a bad habit – laughing AT others. Instead of building bridges to cross the great divides (that we say we’d like to see improved between our spouses, co-workers, family members, Facebook friends, communities… heck, even our respective cities, states and nation!), we lob grenades, cloaked in humor, blowing up any progress on “our bridges” towards a better reality.
You know what I’m talking about (I’ve done some of it, trust me)… Texting/posting a “funny” meme or .gif (throwing a political view or affiliation under the bus). Forwarding a video of someone destroying somebody else’s logic or position on a matter (Christians vs. Atheists). Making a jab about your spouse at a party (“all men think about is…”). Jumping on a bandwagon with your “Like” of how ridiculous you think a certain generation is or can be. I could go on and on with examples…
Here’s the hard part… sometimes (not all the time)… the humor we participate in (that pertains to our differences)… appears, at first glance, to be somewhat benign in its intent. It’s only in the aftermath that we realize the extent of damage that can be done. Cheap laughs can often end up being very costly. The price tag? Very possibly, the harmony we truly want… what we’ve hoped and believed for.
Erroneous Hope & Belief
More than ever, I hear people express how they long for an end to the pervasive division of our current times. Indeed, our world is in need of some serious harmony. I’m not talking about feel-good fake versions. Real harmony. The kind where our differences don’t mean that we are mean (insert sinister laugh).
Chances are you’ve heard the definition of insanity. That is, doing the same things over and over and expecting different results. A preferred destination of harmony can only be reached one way – in order for things to be different, we have to do different. Only then will our hopes and beliefs for a “better” reality have a chance at becoming a reality.
So… What do you need to do? Or stop doing?
Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. - Philippians 4:8b (NLT)
You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. - James 1:19b (NLT)
Some people make cutting remarks, but the words of the wise bring healing. - Proverbs 12:18 (NLT)
Please note: The links in this blog are not an endorsement or indictment of specific content/sources but simply “food for thought” in processing the subject at hand.