How to Cultivate Our Differences

Thank you for joining me on today’s post about cultivating differences. This is a very important piece on the way to living a sober and peaceful life.

Cultivation of Differences

Cultivation of Differences

We ask, require, demand that those around us be like us, share our attributes, our beliefs. And in so doing, we compare… one to another. In that process, do we not squash the spirit of one who is different from us – one whose thoughts and dreams and talents lie in a different place?

“We are like the gates. Although similar in design, what thrives in one spot does not grow in another. On one, there is corrosion or patina, while on another is mellowed brass.

“One is not more beautiful than another. Each has beauty in its own right, if we will only look… if we will only see.”

I wrote the first and third stanzas in my journal in 2002 as a result of my work and healing around the issue of always having been compared to my sisters and always having been found deficient. In 2004, when I photographed this gate, I added the stanza that starts “we are like the gates…”

Certainly, the message is clear about color, and cultivating the differences with people of different color. There are many other differences among us that can also be cultivated. There are different talents, dreams, and occupations. If we would stop comparing each other and instead cultivate our differences, the world would be a gentler place in which to live.

How do we do that? We become secure about ourselves first, secure in who we are as individuals, strong about our beliefs of who we are. Then, we approach others with a sense of curiosity about who they are – their beliefs, their customs.

We applaud their uniqueness, recognizing that our differences make our lives more rich, more full. We respect them for these differences, even if we believe someone has more “value” as a person if they go to college, for example. We dispel that myth, because each of us has a calling, and we respect and encourage everyone’s calling. We recognize that what we do is not who we are.

How do you cultivate our differences? Do you compare, one to another, or do you celebrate our differences? Today, show respect and encouragement to those who are different than you. Become curious about the customs and beliefs of those whom you will meet throughout the day. Notice how good that feels in your heart, your soul. 


How to Respect Another’s Individuality

“We ask of others to follow our dreams, to be like us. Why?” 

Why, indeed! “Why can we not celebrate the talents and skills and differences of each other, encouraging others and ourselves to greatness, daring to stand out, to be unique, to be individual?”

Such is the verse that accompanies the image to the right in my book Opening the Gates of the Heart: A Journey of Healing. We are continuing on through the book in our search and quest for sobriety and inner peace, and today we are looking at individuality.

This verse was prompted by my experience of always being compared to others and being found deficient, almost every time. My dreams and talents and skills were rarely applauded for the fist 16 years of life; instead, I and my interests were compared to my sisters and found to be stupid, a waste of time. 

As a result, I have struggled with daring to stand out with my uniqueness, my talents and skills, until I became sober, did some healing work, and found inner peace.

We do great disservice to others when we compare them to ourselves or another, rather than accepting and applauding them as they express who they are in their soul. We are negating their Spirit-given talents and abilities, who they are at their very core.

Perhaps, the number one thing we can do to encourage individuality in others is to have a firm belief in and appreciation of who we are ourselves. We can work on ourselves to discover these things. When we do, we can go outside of ourselves and truly appreciate another who is different than us.

We no longer see the other as a threat, needing to be cut down, when we feel secure about who we are. Rather, we rejoice in all the different people that exist in the world, confident in the knowledge that the differences lend texture and richness to our lives.  

It is this single action that will bring us respect of individuality in others. Ask yourself today if you can truly see yourself with respect for your own individuality, and then observe how free you are to appreciate the individuality of those around you. 


Growth of Character

I was drawn to the beautiful sweeping staircase behind this gate, and the interesting growth on the wall made me think of our lovely growth of character that develops as we follow the principles of living.

Growth of Character

Growth of Character

The verse asks, “Do we notice the character of another, grown over time on the wall of one’s being?” Then it asks if we notice our own character, evolved over time on our own wall. “Do we groom the moss and mold, encouraging new growth to flourish?”

One of the kindest things we can do for others and ourselves is to notice one’s character, and to recognize its growth over the years. It is a form of acknowledgment, of respect.

We each are interesting beings, with a character that has developed over time because of our unique experiences in life. This is to be honored – in others and in ourselves. 

When I titled this photo, I was thinking of Joe, an elder gentleman I met on a bus on the way from the parking lot to the Wooden Boat Show in Port Townsend, Washington. It was September of 2004.

He was hampered by a disability, and, yet, he was filled with enthusiasm and life. We struck up a conversation and I could not help but notice he was full of character. A nice friendship developed from that and the lunch we later shared.

We each have a character, grown over time on the wall of our being. We can continue to cultivate it as we age, lending grace to that process, as with Joe. Just as we notice that growth of character in another, we can notice it in ourselves. And, through living good principles of living such as we have been discussing, we can groom it, such that it flourishes.

Just for today, notice the character of another and offer it acknowledgment and respect. Just for today, notice your character and do something to encourage new growth. Then stand back and admire the beauty you find.   


Learning to Cultivate Differences Can Lead to Healing Emotional Pain

Cultivation of Differences

Perhaps the most notable difference you can cultivate is that with people of different color. In this photo, I make a strong statement about that difference. You can learn that people are just people, with the same fears, insecurities, and desires to be liked that you experience. We all bleed the same color of blood, have the same internal organs; the skin is just a covering of that which is similar in nature.

Along with differences in color, you will find people with differences in customs. Learning and celebrating these differences provides a delightful tapestry in your life, adding richly to your own customs.

Then there are differences in beliefs. I am not advocating that you cultivate differences when they are harmful to yourself or others, but, rather, when they enhance your sphere of belief. For example, people who pray to a different source than you can be considered fascinating. Just because they are different than you does not mean you must be defensive about what you believe. Your beliefs are just as valid.

When you cultivate differences with those that are different than you, a whole other world opens up. For example, I used to frown upon, and yes, even look down upon, people with tattoos. Then I got into sobriety and started learning to accept others as they are. What I discovered was that the most beautiful words came out of the mouths of people with tattoos, just like those that came out of the mouths of people without them. My whole outlook changed and I relaxed around them, letting them be, enjoying their words.

As you cultivate the differences you find in the world, it lends to your healing emotional pain, as you will find that you are more tolerant and respectful of your differences. It leads you to accept yourself more, celebrating your uniqueness. This helps heal a wounded psyche. What are the differences you can start cultivating today in your life?



Judgment of Others

Absence of Judgment

judgement“Why do we judge others so harshly for being who they are, if their actions and behaviors feed their spirit and are not harmful to themselves or others?

Why do we judge ourselves so harshly for being who we are, if our actions and behaviors feed our spirit and are not harmful to ourselves or others?”

This is a wonderful attitude to have when looking at others. I noticed yesterday, however, that it went right out the window while I was driving. A whole litany of judgments were flying around in my brain! I mean, FLYING! One driver after another, judged as highly incompetent, stupid or ignorant.

Oh my goodness, how harsh. At one point I realized what was happening and said aloud, “What are you DOING, Carolyn?” I clearly was not practicing respect for those individuals, as I talked about in my last blog post!

Where did this streak of judgment, this lack of respect for others come from? I am not sure. It was not fear that I was a “less than” driver. In fact, I was touting my skills. I was tired and anxious to get home. Everyone was going 10 miles under the speed limit, in all four lanes. They were in my way.

I wonder if, because things were not going the way I wanted, I had the need to make someone wrong because of it? That attitude certainly could use a bit of self-searching to get to the root of the belief. I have learned how to do that in sobriety. I’ll keep you posted about what I find.

And what about judging others when they are not a danger? Is it because another is different from us and we feel less than, feel the need to elevate ourselves by putting another down? Or are we afraid of them? What is it that leads us to judge so harshly?