What matters? Identity or the person behind the identity?

Fotolia_43738722_XS_4Whether we think of ourselves as Christians, Muslims, Jews or some other form of religious or ethnic identify, in reality we are all just members of the human race. We are humanity first and other forms of identity second. I think, as people, we all want the same things.

Surely most people just want a peaceful, prosperous life and a better world for their children? We want a roof over our heads and bread on the table. We want to feel secure, we want a sense of purpose in our lives and we want the time to enjoy family and friends.

Life is too short to worry about anything else. Humanity has much more in common than we are often able or willing to recognize and those things that apparently separate us are often more imagined than real.

In my experience there are good people everywhere. And yet, as human beings, we often fear people simply because they are not a reflection of ourselves. We fear what we don’t understand. If only we could just see others as people first. People just like us, with hopes, dreams and a desire to be loved and accepted by others.

If only we could just treat people with respect, regardless of whatever sense of identity they present to the world. If only we could respect others just for being themselves.

I’ve been fortunate enough to live and work in many parts of the world and I have learned that if you make the effort to get to know people, you begin to see them in a different way, regardless of their origin, ethnicity or creed.

If you try to understand them and their lives, suddenly you realize that they are actually just like you. Wherever you go, people are just people. There are a few bad ones of course but most people are honest and decent and if you treat them with respect you will get their respect in return. In my experience, wherever you go people just want to be treated fairly.

When you meet people from a culture which is different to your own, it’s easy to make assumptions about them. However how can you be sure you’re right unless you get to know them? Judging is easy but it’s hard to know what someone else’s life is really like. Unless you’ve actually walked a mile in their shoes, you couldn’t possibly know what their life is really like or what challenges they face on a daily basis.

So you can’t judge anyone unless you make the effort to get to know them. And for me that is the underlying problem for all humanity. We judge people first without making the effort get to know them. We make assumptions and judge on perceived stereotypes rather than treating people as individuals.

For instance, it would be easy to assume that all Muslims have the same extreme views as those currently making media headlines fighting for the establishment of the so called Islamic State.

I have lived and worked in the Middle East over many years and I know that this is not true. Some of the finest people I have ever met are Muslims. I have Muslim friends for whom I have the greatest respect. I have also known many Christians, Jews, Buddhists and more for whom I could make a similar comment.

I’ve learned to treat people as I find them and not as others tell me I should find them. I concern myself only with the content of their character. I try to treat others with respect and I find that generally, if I do, I get their respect in return.

If only we could all treat others in the way that we’d prefer them to treat us then I think the world would be a better place. And surely our aim should be to make this world a better place?

In the words of Stephen R. Covey, we must “Seek first to understand and then to be understood.”

© Roy J Sutton and Mann Island Media Limited. All Rights Reserved. 2017

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