On the social context of dealing with others, S N Smith

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By S N Smith — Oct 15, 2021

(part three in a series of ‘off the cuff” personal reflections)

Sometimes a person’s reaction or attitude toward you may have little to do with you at all. You may, instead, represent something else that has very little to do with you as an individual. When you understand this point, you will be less upset when someone treats you in a way that is not so pleasant or even downright nasty and violent.

In other words, armed with this realization, you will not take it personally. Instead, you will come to understand the wider context in which an interaction with someone is taking place.

Someone may see your ethnic background, religious identification, gender or gender identity, socio-economic status, body weight or other physical characteristics, etc., and make all kinds of assumptions about you based upon their preconceived notions associated with these markers. This is not about you. Rather, it is about them, as well as a statement about the wider context in which they are living and where they are getting their ideas.

I wish I had known this when I was younger as such knowledge would have spared me a lot of personal suffering, as well as prevented me from inflicting suffering and hurt on others. I have made all kinds of assumptions about people based merely on the items mentioned above. And acting upon those assumptions, I have treated or spoke to people in ways that I am not proud of, and in fact, makes me feel ashamed of myself.

I also feel, at times, that I have been treated in ways that were unfair and downright rude simply based on how I have been perceived.  And this has been very hurtful and I have been left feeling empty and diminished on the inside.

Without seeking to exonerate myself in any way, I will say here that I have been brought up in a social environment that has not always cultivated the best in me.  For example, much of the education I have received has been based on many racist and sexist assumptions which only now am becoming aware of.

I feel that I have to both question and unlearn much of what I have been taught, and this is not always an easy thing to do because some of my inner notions/convictions are tied to my personal identity. This is why I try to read material that challenges my preconceived ideas. In other words, I am trying to educate myself so that I can be a better person, as well as understand the sufferings and challenges of other people who may be so much different than I am and see the world in a way that I simply cannot comprehend.

This process is not always comfortable, but as I examine that discomfort, I can begin to see those areas in my life I need to work on.