Simon Jacobson, renowned rabbi, author and founder/director of the Meaningful Life Center, explains that the biblical phrase, “I am to my beloved and my beloved is to me,” (Song of Songs 6:3) captures the very essence of a relationship. He notes that a relationship is a “mutually symbiotic fusion of two forces” and a reflection, “Look into the eyes of your beloved and you will see yourself.”
But how does this apply to those who are different from us? Instead of just being tolerant, why not also fall in love with others who are not like us?
Carl Rogers, psychotherapist and creator of Humanistic Psychology, coined the term, “unconditional positive regard,” which posits that one should prize another as one prizes themselves. This is no easy task since cultural beliefs have been engrained and passed on since the beginning of time. Still, any time is the right time. In the article, “How to Help Caregivers Talk to Children About Race and Racism,” author Jeffrey Kashou, LMFT states that, “parents often feel uncomfortable when having conversations with their children about race and racism” and that “research has shown that avoiding the topic or taking a colorblind approach can instill a negative or taboo view of race. It’s a missed opportunity to promote positive and prosocial values.”
Falling in love with diversity is proactive, not passive or reactive. We must learn to initiate a conversation that widens the lens and challenges negative fixed beliefs that can impact how we relate to and treat one another. I like to define love as random and conscious acts of kindness expressed daily over time. There needs to be a true concerted effort on one’s part to be curious and interested in another’s unique and wonderful differences, rather than integrating preconceived beliefs that can harm and hurt deeply.
Being compassionate towards someone who is ethically, racially or religiously different is just one aspect of diversity. Falling in love with diversity is about breaking through our personal limitations to give ourselves more than what our natural inclination may dictate. The ultimate prize is the gift of harmony and tranquility within and with humanity itself.
People who are in love with diversity not only welcome, but invite and value other’s opinions, beliefs and traditions. Contributions are extolled and may be integrated into one’s own personal life and lifestyle. If we explore diversity as if we were looking at a beachball, we will see a different color depending on what part of the beachball we are holding. One person might see red, another blue. Each offer their own unique view which can then invite and incorporate a wide array of perspectives, coloring our world positively and purposefully.
I don’t want to sit on the sidelines of just being tolerant of others. As Rabbi Jacobson says, a true relationship is the total fusion of two – “I am to my beloved as my beloved is to me.” He adds that two distinct individuals, with different bodies and different souls, join together, in one seamless union; neither is compromised or diminished.
My hope is that this perspective can offer an opportunity to explore the ultimate expression of individuality.
Amy Austin is a licensed marriage and family therapist (MFC# 41252) and doctor of clinical psychology in Rancho Mirage. Dr. Amy can be reached at (760) 774.0047.