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Three Little Words: I’m Like You

7 August 2012 No Comment

Cary Umhau

Cary Umhau
Washington, DC USA

“Women commit a form of violence against themselves by making assumptions instead of asking questions and by remaining silent at times when solidarity is needed to address challenges women face as a collective.”

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The only weapons we should use in a quest for peace are three small words: “I’m like you.” Women commit a form of violence against themselves by making assumptions instead of asking questions and by remaining silent when solidarity is needed to address challenges women face as a collective. Conversely, we women bring peace to ourselves when we speak the truth about our lives, our struggles, and the ways we have found hope, and by offering guidance and companionship to one another.

Perhaps we lead others to think that we have a picture-perfect life – a dream romantic relationship, obedient and cheerful children, more friends than we have time for, and work that is fulfilling every minute of the day.  Yet inside we are dying of loneliness and we feel disconnected from ourselves and others, ironically in ways that would be alleviated if we knew that another person felt the same way, which we all of course often do.

I was in a gym one day and observed a woman who looked like her life was perfect. She had strong, toned arms and body. She walked with a swagger. She laughed easily, tossing her golden hair over her shoulders. She seemed to know everybody around and to somehow just inhabit that public space as if she owned it.  I knew her by reputation and knew that she was also well-educated and wealthy, married to an attractive man and the mother of beautiful children. And I hated her for it.

What violence we do in our minds and hearts to total strangers when we hate them for their successes, for their seemingly easy lives, for their perceived “omnicompetence.”

And what violence we do to other people when we don’t speak honestly and acknowledge our own frailties, our uncertainty, and our fears… all common to every person.

Women at a SPACIOUS event. Photo Credit: SPACIOUS.

The woman in the gym was bothering me so much (or rather I was so bothered by her) that I prayed that I would see her as God sees her, not as I saw her with my natural eyes. How can God command us to love one another as we love ourselves if it’s not possible? From my experience he answers that prayer. Soon after I prayed to see the real woman, not the imaginary one, something happened that was rather miraculous. She randomly came across the gym and began working out on a machine next to me, and she spoke to me. We talked briefly, and even in the two to three minutes that we spoke, it became obvious that she was not only delightful but also a normal woman with concerns, self-doubts, and imperfections – and she knew it.

Yet in my mind I’d made her up to be “perfect” and thus “other,” certainly not like me. And I’d thus done violence to her. And certainly I had not brought peace into our interaction until I thought to pray for something that wasn’t natural to me.

How often do I do this ugly summing up, analyzing, comparing, and contrasting – all to the detriment of my potential love for the other person?

How often do I miss the opportunity to admit to others (ideally in appropriate venues and commensurate with the level of intimacy in the relationship) that I am weak and frail, imperfect and confused, even as I also feel competent enough and loved and full of faith?

We humans are a complex mix of good and bad, fear and love; we bring peace to each other when we admit that about ourselves and assume it about others, offering grace and finding common ground.

My life’s work is a social movement called SPACIOUS. We exist to inspire change as we write, speak, and consult about breaking down “us and them” thinking and loving our neighbors who are, really, everyone. We create custom events at which we bring together people who might not otherwise meet. We play, serve, and create with good people whom we come to know as individuals with stories much like our own. We’re having a lot of fun breaking down stale paradigms and creating new social structures.

So slow down, take the risk of sharing yourself with others, and spend the time to really hear their stories.  And offer them a taste of your story, warts and all, allowing people to experience the miracle of you.

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Follow SPACIOUS on Twitter (@SPACIOUSme)

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The views and opinions expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Peace X Peace.

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