What to do at the doorway of "us" and "them" - Kathy Varol

What to do at the doorway of “us” and “them”

"us" and "them"

Last night I was watching the movie Belfast. In the opening scene, there’s a conflict between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland.

As my heart bled, and my eyes leaked, I couldn’t stop thinking “What’s wrong with us?”

This toxic story of “us” and “them” has left ugly, hate-filled scars across human history.

Northern Ireland: Protestant vs Catholic
Crusades: Christians vs Muslims
Middle East: Sunni vs Shia / Muslim vs Jews
Southeast Asia: Buddhism vs. Muslim
WWII: Nazi vs. Jews
Rwanda Genocide: Hutu vs Tutsi
Cold War/ Vietnam War: Democracy vs Communism

(Humanities’ self-inflicted scars continue…)

Fed by ego and the slithering misconception that there is ONE right answer, there is ONE right way, and anything that’s a threat to the ONE right world view must be wiped out of existence.

What a fragile notion.

There is no “truth” that needs to be protected with violence. If you’re secure in your own truth, you won’t need to amputate the truth out of another.

But time and again, humans perpetuate our own living hell. We do unthinkable things to each other across the toxic divide of “us” and “them”. The illusion of “threateningly different” robbing us of our common humanity.

But there is no ONE way. Many roads lead to the same destination, and many roads also lead to different, but equally valuable, destinations. Even a mathematical proof can be solved in multiple ways.

The doorway of “difference” and misunderstanding is always an invitation to lean in with curiosity. Holding yourself, and the other, equally in a place of love.

We don’t need to believe the same things to see each other’s truth, and to treat our neighbors with dignity and respect.

This age-old story plays out on a microlevel too.

Think back on times when you argued with your friend, family, or spouse. When your ego kept you from saying sorry, from taking accountability for the pain you caused, because taking accountability would mean you did something wrong. Maybe you were afraid it would confirm your fears that you’re not good enough. That you’re unworthy.

Instead of holding yourself in compassion that you’re worthy of love even when you don’t live up to the person you want to be, you dig in your heels, creating an even bigger divide, and filling it with more hurt.

It’s impossible to avoid misunderstandings and hurting others. It’s part of being human. Each of us walks through the world with our own perceptions and a firm belief that our perception is THE truth. When in reality, multiple perceptions are happening all at once, each of which is equally valid and true.

The next time you encounter a doorway of “us” and “them”, you have a choice.

Consider using it as an opportunity to see another person more clearly, to see yourself more clearly, and to use that doorway to be brought closer together through a moment of shared vulnerability.

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