We’re The Same

Regardless of what you’ve heard, we’re really the same.

Can I tell you something about me?

Some of it is obvious, some of it is less obvious (but it’s stuff that you probably already know) and some of it is information that I’ve never shared here before.

Ready? Here goes:

I’m a black man, I’m in an interracial marriage (with two bi-racial daughters), I’m politically liberal, I don’t follow any organized religion (I choose spirituality instead), and I’m one of the only people I know who hates the taste of chocolate.

But, enough about me. Let’s see how you’re doing.

It’s possible that you actually might like me more after reading the previous sentence, but if so, this post isn’t about you.

I want to address the people who may like me less after reading the opening to this blog post.

If you’re one of those people (and if you’re still reading this blog post), keep reading. I have something for you.

The Danger in Our Differences

Here’s where this gets interesting.

For those of you who may think less of me because of my political leanings, are disturbed by the fact that I would ever consider marrying interracially and bring bi-racial kids into this world, or are horrified that I don’t go to church on Sundays, let me ask you something.

Why?

I’m still same guy I was before you clicked on this blog post. I still believe that kindness is the most positive force in the universe. I am still fighting on a near-daily basis to eradicate workplace bullying (and bullying of any kind, really) from this world forever. Most of all, I’m still committed to spending the rest of my life to do everything within my power to make this world a more positive place for me, you and for every future generation that follows us.

That’s not so bad, right? So, why does it matter who I voted for, who I chose to marry and how I choose to spend my Sunday mornings?

Or more directly, what’s the point of being fixated on some minor differences that really don’t matter, except for in your own mind? Unfortunately, way too many people fall into the same destructive trap on a daily basis. Let me show you what I mean.

Here are some of the less-than-positive (read: insane) things that I’ve heard/read this year so far, and we’re only a month and a half into it:

“These Democrats make me sick. They’re all a bunch of freeloading, welfare-addicted bums who are a drain on our society.”

“I hate Republicans. They are all either greedy and money-obsessed, or they’re inbred, uneducated, racist rednecks.”

“Gay people are disgusting, and they are all going to burn in hell.”

“I hate sitting next to a retard at a restaurant. They always gross me out and make me lose my appetite.”

“Why do all of these black football players act like thugs? It’s like they’re animals.”

“You’re a damned fool for trusting any white person.”

I don’t get it.

Why is it that when we focus on our differences, negativity predictably follows?

More importantly, why is it that when we focus on our similarities, positivity and acceptance follows?

The truth is that we are all way more similar than we are different, so why are we acting like we have nothing in common with each other?

It’s time for a reality check.

Yes, We’re Pretty Much All The Same

I want you to think of someone who you think that you have nothing in common with. Let me tell you something about that person:

  • She has hopes and dreams that she desperately wants to achieve before she dies.
  • She has fears and insecurities, and many of them are similar to the ones that you have.
  • She wants to be happy and to be loved.
  • She wants to feel that the work that she does matters.
  • She has moments where she hates who is staring back at her in the bathroom mirror.
  • She loves her kids and worries about their well-being often.
  • She has drama in her life that you could never begin to understand.

In other words, she’s a lot like you. And me. And everyone else you know and have ever known.

This is so logical, isn’t it? Science actually backs this up too. From DNA perspective, we’re 99.9% the same. Unfortunately, logic separates from our best intentions in a hurry when all that we care about are our differences. That’s when smart people end up doing very dumb things, like fighting about the 0.1% that makes us different.

Yes, this insanity has to stop.

The Only Difference That Will Ever Matter

Take a look at the babies in the picture at the top of this blog post. Adorable, right?

They don’t know anything about differences. They don’t understand hate. They don’t care if the other babies sitting nearby will grow up to be Christians, Muslims, Democrats, Republicans, gay, straight, Taylor Swift or Kanye West fans.

But chances are that there’s someone reading this who does, and that’s a problem. At least it is to me.

Because it’s people like them who will eventually teach the babies in the picture above that there’s something very wrong with people who look different than they do, or think differently than they do. Then, predictably, those innocent babies will grow into fearful adults who believe that their differences from others somehow matter more than their similarities.

Here’s how I see it. There are only two types of people in the world:

1) The ones who are making this world a more positive place to live by consistently treating others with kindness, respect and love.

2) The ones who are doing the opposite.

That’s it. That might be too simple for some people, but it works for me. That’s the only diversity that I give a damn about.

Do you know what I don’t give a damn about?

If you’re black or white, have tattoos/piercings (or don’t), vote conservative or liberal, wear a hoodie or a bow tie, listen to country music or hip-hop, whether you’re a Christian or atheist, a janitor or a CEO, or any other nonsensical excuse that’s used to justify withholding kindness, respect and love from a fellow human being.

The longer that we focus on our differences instead of similarities, the longer this world loses.

And I need it to win. So do the babies in the picture. So do you.

We’re the same. It’s time that we act like it.

Your Turn

What is easier for you to see in other people–your similarities to them or your differences to them? Jump into the comments below and make your voice heard!

Shola

Shola

Founder of The Positivity Solution
Author, keynote speaker, and kindness extremist who is committed to changing the world by helping as many people as possible to live and work with more positivity.
Shola
Shola

Latest posts by Shola (see all)

Comments

  1. Oh Amen, Shola! That is spot-on!

    Sometimes I think that generalizations (“all Democrats are….” “why can’t Republicans…” “Kids today need to…”) remove any recognition that the statement is about PEOPLE. The human-ness is taken out, so it is easier to be judgemental, mean or down right cruel.

    I remind myself often that each of us is a person. Each of us has battles raging inside our lives. Each of us needs kindness above all else, especially those who don’t realize how much they need it.

    Thank you for reminding us that our differences are just details. It’s our hearts and our needs for love (even when we don’t think we need it) that makes us the same.

    • Amen, Kathy! It is way too easy to be judgmental and cruel instead of realizing the similarities that we all share. Like you said, we’re all dealing with our own personal battles, and what we need is kindness not more judgment. We are truly so much more similar than we are different.

  2. All I can say is thank you for this important message and NAMASTE (the Divine in me recognizes the Divine in you)! Happy Monday! 🙂 <3

  3. Shola, you have pulled out all the stops for 2015, and I am really impressed! Every week, a post that gets right to the nitty gritty. Now for this week, thank you for telling us a little about yourself. I have a policy of dealing with people on the basis of what they seem to be on the inside, not the outside. And the outside is not only race, good looks, etc., it is also outward attributes, like religious or political affiliation. I focus on inner qualities: trustworthiness, kindness, humor, and mutual interests. I spent many years on the receiving end of other people’s harsh judgements. Everyone in town knew my mom was the local crazy lady, and my dad the local drunk and man-whore. We were really poor (what a surprise) and wore dumpy old clothes the church donated to us. Kids and adults were so mean to me and my brothers; many would not let their children be our friend. As a teenager, I started medicating with food, so (spoiler alert, another surprise) I ended up fat with horrible acne. Men, women, children, and adults were frequently just horrible to me. In hindight, it was a valuable lesson. I had to learn to work on my personality, to try to get myself across to others, get some respect, and set a tone of friendliness. Oh, then I lost the weight, started wearing makeup, dressing well and everyone said I was cute, and then the world treated me GREAT. People would laugh at my totally not funny jokes, it was easy to get jobs, etc. I was horrified. I was glad that people stopped being gratuitously vicious to me, but I did take note: the general population still judged me 100% by the external package, and treated me really well, without first determining if I as a person was entitled to that. Of course, in my whole life, I met many exceptions to the rule, who took the time to get to know me, and treat me accordingly. I was so angry and disgusted by the way “the world” treated me, it took me a long time to realize there were many good, fair, and generous people out there. For a long time, they were invisible to me, and I did not appreciate them. Finally, I guess a little maturity and life experience settled in, as well as a few extremely fortunate friendships and mentoring situations, and I was able to see how many people out there really are kind and good, if you give them a chance. Having lived through all of that, I am very aware of the absolute irrationality and senselessness of lumping people into groups based on a few erroneous attributes. And I’m bringing this all up, because I don’t believe I am unique or special. I think just about everyone has had at least a little experience with being mistreated in at least a few instances, based on another’s personal perceptions. We all know how painful and outrageously unjustified that is, and I hope that can give most of us the empathy to not perpetuate such horrible treatment of others. I do speak up, and I strongly believe we must all do this, when a friend, coworker or family member makes a sweeping judgement about another. When I do, often the response I get is, “I knew you would say that. You’re always too nice.” To which I reply, exactly how much nice is “too nice”, and what in #$@!=%^ is wrong with that??? I’m not sure it makes a difference, other than people need to know they will at least be called on that kind of nasty talk. We are talking about positivity here, and I think we all care about that because we think of ourselves as good people, striving to lead good lives. Well, “Good” is strong, and stands up for the innocent. I don’t really think I have a crusader type of personality, yet, I do believe that commiting to positivity has created some responsibilities for me, in how I live my own life, and when I need to speak up for my principals. This is a life-long learning curve, and I am grateful for your support Shola, and for the input of the other like-minded positivists. (And I truly appreciate that you do not post the hater comments. We have heard all that before. There is nothing new going on in that world.)

    • Thanks for sharing, Donna! Like you, I think that I’m sensitive to this topic because I know what it feels like to be judged for things that don’t really make me who I truly am. As for the “too nice” comment, I love your comeback! Seriously, what in the hell does being “too nice” mean? Should you just sit back and chuckle mindlessly at their sweeping judgments of other people? Good for you for speaking up about your principles! Just know that I’m right there with you in spirit 🙂

  4. By way of contrast, I want to share briefly the story of my brother. He hadn’t spoken to me, his only sibling – our parents are already gone – in over 2 years, for reasons unknown. Sadly, he called me at 6:23am Nov. 14 to tell me he was going to take his own life; the time of death from the police report was 6:44am. I was haunted for weeks over his silence through the last 2 years and finally got in contact with his best friend to try to understand what I might have done to upset and distance my brother so. The answer? I was a piece of crap liberal who had voted for Obama, and a white woman dating an Indian man. That was it. I can’t help but feel that his hate trapped him and played a part in his final decision. I, however, am free. Thanks for this post today and letting me share this with others.

    • Whoa Lisa, that is horrible on so many levels. Suicide is a personal decision, and I hope that you’re at peace knowing that who you chose to vote for or marry played no role in your brother’s decision–and yes, you should be free from any guilt. Most importantly, I am sincerely sorry for your loss.

  5. I believe in inalienable rights, the pursuit of happiness, equal opportunities, and freedom, but I DO NOT believe in equality. We are wonderfully and amazingly different, and I wholeheartedly believe in respecting and appreciating these differences. If we put more effort into understanding each other than we do into defending ourselves from each other, a better world awaits us. We live in a country built on ideals that we rob each other of everyday. STOP!! What can be born from an integration of our differences is so much superior to any collaboration of sameness. We need to stop robing ourselves of this progress.

    There is an addressable shortage of empathy and compassion in the world. A lot of the hurtful quotes in this post probably come from people with deeply held beliefs about how others ought to think, live, and behave. Well those kind of comments are completely void of constructive value, it’s understandable considering the source. Reacting defensively is equally understandable. What I don’t understand is how we’ve evolved such superior intelligence, yet continue to be controlled by primitive urges. It’s no secret that we fear what we don’t know, but nowadays, there’s just no excuse for this lack of understanding and respect.

    We have all the tools necessary for successful problem solving, yet we continue to bully popular opinion into the measure of what is acceptable. This is so unacceptable!

    • Star, I’m not completely sure that I fully understand your comment. I’m all for celebrating our differences, but this blog post was about the pain that comes from solely focusing on our differences without acknowledging our similarities.

      • Thank you for replying, Shola!

        I’m sorry. I know I totally went off on a tangent about differences here. Sameness scares me. It’s too easy to define ourselves by what others value and accept that I hear bells and see yellow lights when I hear anything sameness related. In fact, I think it’s so easy that we don’t even realize how much compromises we make until we find ourselves in an unhappy place, so I’m grateful for all your posts encouraging us to evaluate our directions in life.

        As far as our sameness… It’s just that the concepts of what makes us the same (happiness, love, insecurity, hopes, dreams…) are so abstract. When our individual definitions of these concepts conflict with deeply held political, religious, cultural, or other sensitive views these similarities suddenly cease to matter because we struggle to reconcile our perspectives. There seems to be some point where the deviation between definitions becomes so wide that we’re not seeing a certain lifestyle or choice as happiness, love, security, or whatever it be. Some choices, no matter how harmless, is seen as immoral, deviant behavior and some may never accept it as someone else’s happiness. So in this case, how can we see sameness? I think being able to see sameness in these situations is a function of successfully accepting our differences. I don’t see danger in focusing on our differences; I see the potential for greater understanding and respect for ourselves and others. The negative comments used to illustrate the danger in focusing on our differences is more descriptive of the commentator defending his or her own position. The focus is on themselves and their views. I think the pain described in this post actually results from the unwillingness to focus on our differences.

  6. Thanks Shola,
    As I was reading your essay, I found myself doing the “yawn…I get it” thing. Not critically or negatively please understand. It just amazes me that there are people who continue to hang on to these worn out, harmful, ridiculous, non-sensical stereotypes. It is February of 2015 and your essay is still timely?! Unfortunately I guess it is. I am old enough to be your mother so these brutal personal attacks on our fellow humans seem like they should be so “last year”. I was fighting these issues of prejudice in the 60’s!
    Well, we just keep working away at educating and modeling the kind of humans we can be if we choose to be.
    My children were told many times that one should never start a day with a thought that could cause another person to have a bad day. Why do that? Right?
    Anyway, when I see what we refer to as “mixed marriages” I smile because I am seeing bona-fide AMERICANS. What is more American than a so-called “mixed marriage”?
    I love this country because you and I can have this conversation without fear.
    Nice article and thanks for reminding some of us that these issues are still around in parts of our nation and our world.
    I am an old white lady from Texas and yes, we are all the same.
    Warmly,
    Elaine

    • I hear you about the “yawn, I get it” thing, Elaine. But as my mom would say, “unfortunately, common sense just isn’t that common these days.” There are still many people who choose to stay locked-in on our differences instead of celebrate our similarities. To me, that is incredibly sad. As you said, change happens by modeling the kind of humans we can be, if we choose to be. I’ll keep fighting for that change, and I hope that you’ll be with me!

  7. YES! Thank you so much for putting this out there and doing so in such a clear way. I couldn’t agree more, or be happier that you dedicated this week’s blog post to this topic. I truly believe that if we all looked for and understood our similarities and stopped using differences as pathetic excuses to hate/blame/judge/dislike/etc., we would actually have a chance at eliminating or seriously reducing bullying, abuse, racism, sexism, depression, suicide rates, and the list goes on. Thank you so much for sharing this! I’m so thankful for you.

    • Whitney! It is always so great to hear from you! Yes, all of the things that you mentioned would be greatly diminished if we focused more on our similarities instead of our differences. It seems so simple, but I continue to be shocked by the amount of people who are either unwilling or unable to do it. I guess that means that we’ll have to be the change that we want to see in the world, huh? 🙂

  8. Shola, you are blessed with the ability to express with words the feelings of so many people. Every time I read one of your blogs I feel a little more life trying to return to me. You are spot on with your feelings and the truths of society today. I hate that the world we live in is so full of hate and negative people who actually enjoy or appear to enjoy hurting and bullying others. I was raised to always be kind and thoughtful to others, no exceptions. I am struggling to deal with my own issues of being bullied at work and now unemployed due to all the games and harassment from my bully. How some people live with themselves just amazes me especially when they can see and know the hurt and turmoil they bring to other human beings. I could never live with myself if I were the evil and vicious person that treated me the way they did me. I am having a terrible time dealing with my job loss, my loss of purpose, my failure and my inability to just get over it. When does the healing begin, when does life begin again?
    Thank you so much for just being the wonderful and caring person you are. Keep up the great work with your blog.
    Bless you Shola.

    • Wow Nena, thank you so much for your kind words! More importantly, I am so sorry to hear what you’re currently dealing with right now. One of the main reason why I started this blog was to counter-balance the cruelty and meanness that I saw in the world (especially in the workplace.) I’m not sure how your bully is able to sleep at night, but please believe that your healing will come. In the meantime, continue to live with purpose and kindness and there’s no doubt in my mind that you’ll be rewarded with a job that is infinitely better than the one that you left. Most importantly, hang in there!

  9. Cianna Johnson says:

    Shola you never fail to impress me and bring a smile to my face. Here’s the thing about me. I am an aromantic celibate asexual, I am anti school, anti money, anti Paulinism. I am a girl but don’t like to shop, talk about boys, dance (especially twerk goodness no!) People may say there is something wrong with me, but I am happy to know these things about myself 🙂 This post just makes me happier knowing how different I am. Thank you for your wisdom Shola!

    • Cianna, there is absolutely nothing wrong with you! But you already know that 🙂 Even in our differences, we still share a common similarity that is WAY more important as far as I’m concerned. Keep being you, Cianna!

  10. Kristen Quinn says:

    Hmm.. in other words.. do not judge others for how they choose to live their life, but accept that we all have similar ideas, wants, likes/dislikes etc?? Yeah, I think we can all say this.. but doing it is a DAILY struggle for each and every one of us! We are so influenced by people around us like minded and you ‘feed’ off one another in support/dis-supporting feelings, validation for those thoughts.. etc. Yes, not judging others is a biggie.. and something I too and working so very hard to not do and have to vocalize this to myself every time a judging thought enters my mind to think otherwise! Far from perfect.. we all are.. but living our life understanding that we are not perfect, and neither is the person that is total polar opposite from us.. but we CAN live in harmony with one another.. will that ever happen 100%.. I am optimistic by default.. but I hate to say ‘no’… can we each do our own part to try as hard as we can.. YES we can do that!

  11. Hello Shola,
    This is the first time I have read your blogs and I just love what you have to say. I am an evangelical Christian and I love you just as much after reading your bio as I did before I clicked on your blog. I am so very happy to hear what you have to say and I thank God for the truth in it. Your points really hit home. Please keep the positive optimism coming. I promise I will never marginalize what you have to say because of our differences. I think you are spot on. (apologies for using “I” so much) My hope is that authentic Christianity will make a very serious come-back by way of listening and loving people and respecting their points of view and abandoning the very negativity you speak of. Pleas keep up the good work and God bless!

Speak Your Mind

*