Loving Thy Neighbor, even if They’re Different Than You

It never fails to amaze me when people don’t like each other simply because they’re different. A different race or religion. A different ethnicity or mode of dress. Even an accent that, when they speak, it lets one know that something in that person’s past was…different.

Different Types of What Could Have Been the Same

A perfect example occurred when I attended my last meditation retreat. My first retreat experience, which taught Vipassana meditation, allowed me to find peace and calm, and never presented a conflict with my personal religious choice. Similarly, numerous mindfulness meditation retreats I have attended were totally secular, simple, and scientifically supported. All perfect for me. However, this last retreat included multiple practices that led to discomfort because some of the experiences were, I felt, in conflict with my personal religious practices.

While my first thought was to leave this last retreat, I knew this was not the best response; after all, no one was engaging in any type of negative practice. More in-depth thinking led me to consider the experiences of anyone who attends a service of a religion other than their own. It’s different, it feels a bit strange, but, in truth, no one is hurting anyone else. And no one is asking the visitor to change religions, or saying, “my way is best.” It’s just a matter of having a different experience; it’s not a matter of something being better or worse.

Noticing Differences, but  Still Treating with Kindness

While these new practices we are experiencing are not ours, we are still typically respectful in these situations because the people who invited us to attend are our friends, or we’ve been asked to attend something for a particular reason. And we’ve made the choice to attend. But what if we don’t know someone personally; is that a reason to be wary or deny the other people services?

The Supreme Court and some states are discussing if there should be a religious exemption so business owners don’t have to serve those whose actions are not condoned by their religion, or deciding if people with different lifestyles should have equal rights under the law. I’ll tell you the truth…I just don’t get it.

If my God says “love thy neighbor as thyself”, then my God would want me to be kind and loving to whomever, whether they are the same or different. That’s pretty much the end of the argument for me. And, if I do my best, during my lifetime, to be kind, loving, and accepting to others, then, when I finally do pass on, I’m sure God will decide the time and place to discuss if my actions were right or wrong. God will take care of things, not some mortal being.

And what if my God isn’t the right one, according to people of other religions, or if, as some say, there’s not a God? Then I return to a conversation I had with another educator years ago, an educator of a different religion:

“This is what I believe and it is the basis for how I will live my life. And if I’m wrong, Whoever is in charge of the Great Beyond will say to me, at some point, “You were wrong. BUT, you lived a life doing your best to be a good person, helping others and trying not to ever harm anyone else. And for that I’ll say, good job.” And, I believe, blessings will still await.”

Maybe I’m wrong about this, too. But until that time that it is proven otherwise, I think I’ll just do my best to live my life without denying anything to others, especially others who are hurting no one else… who just have a lifestyle that is different from mine.

Dr W


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