Haven't we all had thoughts or preconceived notions that we are not proud of -- feelings or ideas about things that we didn't even know we had? I think most of us would like to think we are open minded, unbiased, or non judgemental. Then we find ourselves looking at the homeless person squatting beside the curb with a cup out for coin and we feel a little more than a little uncomfortable. Or we pass a group of young lads with black skin decked out in hip hop duds and clutch our purses a little tighter. Snap judgements that we'd be ashamed to admit -- to ourselves or anyone else. These are revealing moments for us ... teaching moments.
I don't think we can help or stop those initial feelings or reactions that expose ... but we can control our response. We can "grow" through it, move past "tolerance" onto acceptance and understanding. We sell ourselves short and deprive ourselves of possibilities when we cave to generalizations and prejudice. Take for example my first encounter of women loving women when I joined the Women's Centre in college. I had never seen women being romantic and affectionate with one another and I can recall the knot in my stomach and the utter discomfort that comes with fear and ignorance. I pretended to be OK with it all and let me guard down enough to actually get to know the same women I had been cringing about. Fear fell away with the labels. Misconceptions were replaced with warm human beings and soon I didn't have to pretend. Lesbian had a face ... and a heart attached to it.
I can think of many times when I have battled my inner "isms" - and I know I am winning the war. I aspire to have a heart that is big and pure enough to love and accept the shapes, shades and variations of humankind. It's a choice I can make.