Does bias get in the way of courtesy?

BLS gift of character headerRecently I saw a question raised that asked, when we meet new people if we are able to show courtesy and understanding or are those virtues compromised due to prejudice and biases?  Are we able to keep an open mind and see people for who they are?

For many the quick answer is an emphatic I AM OPEN-MINDED.  I AM NOT BIASED.  While the idea of no bias is a worthy goal – if we reflect deeply on ourselves, we most likely see beliefs/opinions come up that we assign to ‘groups’ of people.  It is these beliefs/opinions that close our mind to seeing people as they really are.  These same beliefs/opinions are the ones that shape how we respond to them;  including our level of respect, kindness or courtesy.

Belief/Opinions are formed and passed on by others whom are similar to ourselves or from individuals we have been hanging out with.  An interesting quote that really raised my awareness about this kind of thinking:

“Opinion is really the lowest form of human knowledge.  It requires no accountability, no understanding. The highest form of knowledge is empathy, for it requires us to suspend our egos and live in another’s world.  It requires profound purpose larger than the self kind of understanding.”   Bill Bullard – Educator

The easiest way of really knowing someone and overcoming our bias and judgment is by overcoming our own fear and simply getting to know them.  We can get to know them by sharing time in reaching common goals, working with a variety of individuals to complete a service project or deep listening to their story.  As we listen to their story we will see their individuality and similarities;  their joys and fears, desires and hopes are ours.

Put in the most simple terms: All people want to be safe, healthy, successful and happy; both for ourselves and our children.

What we value as humans is the same, though sometimes expressed in different manners.  Seeing how others value life will help us to appreciate everyone that we meet and keep life very interesting.