Have you ever listened to someone explain something they believe and think to yourself, “Man, that person is just nuts.” You don’t have to go far to run into some sort of division or hostility between people and their beliefs these days. Today, we live in a time in which people seem to be more than ever committed to their belief systems, thus being more than ever diametrically opposed to those who disagree. As secularism spreads through Europe and America, it is followed closely with a wave of renewed religious faith and a return to ancient belief systems.
We are living in an increasingly polarized world. This is something deserving our consideration. We have to be aware of the reality that surrounds us if we are going to live effectively in it. One of the tendencies that I have noticed in myself and others around me, is that we tend to respond increasingly more critically to those around us who think more differently than we do. We blow them off as crazy, radical and foolish. And it seems that the closer they get, the harsher our criticism becomes.
Why do we do this? Perhaps there are layers to the answer. Maybe we are insecure. We see more and more people around us who think and live very differently than we do and we feel that our worldview is threatened. The only option seems to be to completely discount all potential credibility by labeling them as “crazy”. Another layer to the issue is that we may be failing to understand how worldviews work. We fail to see that there are many people in the world who truly see the world from a fundamentally different perspective. We measure all their actions on the basis of our thinking and find if completely absurd.
It is interesting to note that some of the greatest minds of history were blown off as absurd. These are some of history’s most foolish blunders, very often leading to much unnecessary bloodshed and many many years of regressive thinking.
We cannot discount people without first understanding how and why they believe what they believe. Labeling them as radical or crazy without first attempting to understand how they see the world is not a sign of disagreement but a sign of an unwillingness to think on our part. We are not rejecting their worldview. Rather, we are rejecting the opportunity to consider it. It is an indirect way of stating that we have nothing to learn and that our perspective is 100% complete.
When we take time to listen to, and understand, those who think very differently than we do, we often find that there is a lot more in our own perspective that is worthy of further examination. We also find that there is often a lot more in their perspective that makes sense. This has great power to enrich, challenge and strengthen our own worldview, as well as build a greater appreciation of the people around us – even if we don’t agree with all that they say or think.