Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Seeking to Understand...

Last week, I saw a transgendered individual walking across the street.  It looked to me that this person had been born male and was now identifying as a female.  She was dressed as a woman but had a large frame, awkward stride, and looked nothing like what our culture defines as womanly.  A variety of thoughts ran through my mind.  None of them kind.  Then it hit me. That what I was looking at was not a what but a person.  A person like me.  Someone, who has emotions and feelings.  Someone, who wakes up in the morning and puts on a pot of coffee.  Who has a family and friends.  Who needs  love and affection. Someone, who longs to be accepted.  A person just trying to figure out who they are and where they fit in this world.  When I thought about what this person must have to contend with day in and day out, my heart broke.  I was filled with compassion.  I found myself wanting to know her story.  Not so I could fix her or find some reason as to why she is this way but to try to understand. 

This encounter has got me thinking about people. More specifically, how I see people.  Do I see a person or my own bias and preconceived notions?  I think as a human being, I tend to gravitate to those who are similar to me and move away from those who are different.  Similar is safe, different is not.  Different can be scary, not to mention uncomfortable.  Different has a way of challenging my thinking and how I see life.  When I seek to understand those who are different, I run the risk of having my world turned upside down.  No longer are they the ‘other’ but a flesh and blood human being.   And it makes it harder to dismiss them or be cruel to them.

My original response to the transgendered woman was my attempt to keep her as the ‘other’ because to see her as a person, would cause me to have to rethink what I have believed about transgendered people.  And changing is difficult and painful.  It is much easier to dismiss, to criticize, to blame than it is to try to understand and to see things through another person’s eyes.

Honestly, this is hard for me to do even when the person is not that different from me.  It is so easy to get caught up in my own day and forget to look at people.  To stop and look into their eyes and remember that there is a person in there.  Often a hurting person.   A person with a story.  A story I may or may not know. When I can do this I find that I am gentler.  Kinder.  Able to love better. 

I read something recently about how we should try to ‘give our understanding to people and then seek to understand’.  It really struck me.  I want to be that kind of person.   To hold back my judgments and just listen.  Really listen.  And if I can really listen, maybe the understanding will come.  And if the understanding comes then maybe the differences will begin to fade.  And then maybe the love can come.


  1. Love this... and you. May we all listen more and judge less.

  2. I love the last line because I know it is true in my own life. The more I seek to understand the "other", the more I discover that they really aren't that different from me. But the reverse is also true...the more I try to understand and accept myself without judgement, the more grace and goodwill I seem to have for trying to understand the "other". It is all interconnected.

  3. You are singing my song.

    1. are you sure? 'cause mine is sort of an upbeat gansta rap song...