The other day my best friend told me:
“If somebody else would behave as you do right now, I would be very angry with this person. But with you, I am not annoyed at all, because I love you and I understand you, how you are, how you behave and why”.
We know each other since we were five, we have shared a lot of experiences together and we perfectly know which our best qualities and our worst flaws are. For this reason, we have learned to love reciprocally even if there are a lot of things we do not like at all from the other person. And, we understand the reasons why we behave as we do, so my friend and I accept the other’s actions and behaviors.
When I was a child, my mum used to tell me a story about a group of thieves. This group of thieves stole a lot of things from people in the street whom they did not know. However, between them, as they were very close friends, they always shared everything they had, they really trusted each other and they would never steal anything from another person from their group.
Once my mum asked me: “Why do you think they would never think of stealing something important from somebody inside their own group even if they always steal important things from people in the street?” and then she asked: “How it would be the world if this group of thieves thought all the human beings were from their own group? They would treat everybody in a good way and they would not ever steal anything else again from anyone”.
The moral idea of this story is to understand that sometimes we, as humans, treat without any consideration people who we do not know because, as we do not know them, we do not develop the strong sense of empathy we have with our friends or family. My mother was trying to teach me that we should try to take in consideration strangers, the ones we do not know, the ones who are far from us, physically, culturally or politically.
The comment my friend made me the other day, reminded me this story about the group of thieves. My friend and I never will stop our friendship, even if one of us does something that the other does not agree with. We have a strong sense of empathy and love between us.
I love my friends because I know that I am not going to be judged by them. It means I can do, say or express whatever I want or I feel, because, as they love me too, they are going to try to understand me, and they will never judge me but advise me. Basically, we love each other for what we are, not for what we pretend to be. So, I can be free when I am with them, and they can be as free as I am when we are together. For me, loving somebody is this: accept, understand and be open to love others as they really are.
However, loving our friends or people close to us is quite easy. But how can we love the ones we do not know? How can we love all the human beings completely, trying to empathize with them and understand them?
Of course, we can not love strangers as our friends or family, but this does not mean we do not have to make an effort to see the others, the strangers, as human beings, with all their rights, fears and feelings. In my opinion, the problem starts when we built a wall between our different groups and the others. The others are the ones who come from different groups because they are far from our own idea of the world, we do not know them so we do not understand them. As we all have a lot of groups: our family and friends, people from our village, from our nation, people who speak the same language as us, or who have the same religion.
When seeing other groups as a different homogenize tribe from us; a group of individual human beings who do not belong to our group, we do not feel empathy. Therefore, a difficulty on respect and diversity acceptance appears. At this point, we feel free to act like the group of thieves, without taking in consideration others and showing no respect among them and acceptance on their differences.
All of us, as human beings, we have families, hopes, fears, and dreams. Strangers, the others as a concept, are not just a target, a vague idea full of prejudices and misunderstandings. Strangers are, of course, human beings. If the groups of thieves had understood that, maybe they would have stopped stealing. And, maybe my friend and I should try to understand more people who are not as close to us as we are from each other.
It is impossible not to love people close to us than people we do not know. However, it is necessary to make an effort to understand people we do not know and never forget that others, the ones who are neither our friends nor from our groups, they also feel, dream and love. By Marta Valls Ribas