How often do we get that frame of mind when we are in the midst of conflict that the individual that we are “against” is just downright awful? When everything they do is just wrong, malicious, idiotic, etc.? How often do we judge and perceive their actions with a different standard than we apply to others? How many times have homes, offices, governments, etc. been destroyed by grudges, misunderstandings, unwillingness to listen, and closed thinking toward people and issues? Conflict is so rampant in our world (not that it is always bad, I contend along with many others that there is idea conflict and personality conflict, the latter being detrimental, the former being helpful) and it breaks down so many important relationships simply by the way we think about people.
There is a passage in the Christians Scriptures in which Paul, the Apostle, writes to a group of Christians who are in the midst of conflict (hold-out here if you don’t identify as Christian or religious, this is all about relationships). He identifies that conflict has been part of the framework of this group, and the particular conflict that they faced stems from selfishness and an unwillingness to think about others in a way that makes them an equal and valuable to the group.
Paul first shows examples of those that have been proven to be honored in their group through their selfless actions (as an aside, this is written into a collectivist culture, so honor and shame would be the primary factors for thinking about how people function according to accepted norms). This is intended to point people to a better way of living selflessly, then toward the end of his letter he says this:
“8 And now, brothers, as I close this letter, let me say this one more thing: Fix your thoughts on what is true and good and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely, and dwell on the fine, good things in others. Think about all you can praise God for and be glad about. 9 Keep putting into practice all you learned from me and saw me doing, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Phil. 4:8-9, TLB)
What would happen if we framed our thoughts about others from what is good about them (and in them) as opposed to the negative? What would happen to our homes, neighborhoods, businesses, government, etc? Can you imagine not looking at someone with a negative label? What if, through looking at, and for, the good in them you were able to totally reframe your relationship? Are you willing to take the step?
Start looking for the good, true and right in others. Find out what makes them who they are. Ask questions, be empathetic, and care about them.