Losing Our Sense of Common Humanity: The Difference Between Acceptance & Agreement

I continue to be amazed these days by the inability of people to separate acceptance from agreement.

 

ac·cept·ance

 [ak-sep-tuhns]  Show IPA

noun

1.

the act of taking or receiving something offered.

2.

favorable reception;

a·gree·ment

 [uh-gree-muhnt]  Show IPA

noun

1.

the act of agreeing or of coming to a mutual arrangement.

2.

the state of being in accord.

 

While acceptance is sometimes equated with agreement, such is not implicit in it. And in a world of diverging cultures and opinions, it’s no wonder people are so up in arms when so few seem capable of accepting the reality that not everyone is alike. For example, you can believe homosexuality is a sin and a choice and still accept that people choose that for themselves. It’s not a threat to you and your existence. So you can simply coexist knowing you don’t agree. You don’t have to mean harm to anyone because you don’t agree. That’s not implicit nor is it necessary. It’s possible to know someone does not share your religious faith and still not agree with them but accept them as a valid human being. Why are people so bad at this these days?

The list of so-called friends who have abandoned me because we don’t see eye to eye on politics or religion is growing. This despite the fact that I’ve made a concerted effort to be less vocal about both subjects. And it sickens me. I have never rejected these people for their different values. Why must they refuse to accept me for mine? Do they actually believe I would mistake acceptance for agreement? I wouldn’t. I know them. I know where they stand. But apparently they are incapable of living in peace with that and I think it’ s sad. The world is a much better place because of its diversity. I wish more people understood that and were at peace with it.

It’s the very diversity of ideas and concepts we have against which to compare our own which gives us depth of insight and allows us confidence in what we believe. To defriend, disown, or ignore someone with whom you once had cordial friendship just because you don’t see eye to eye is small minded and petty and, more importantly, cutting yourself off from a rich opportunity to see the world through different eyes.  By seeing the world through that alternate lens, you can be a better person, even if you disagree. Because you’ll have empathy and understanding that despite your differences, you share a common humanity.

To me, this is what’s being lost, a sense of common humanity. And we’re paying a big price for it in Western culture. We’re losing community and the sense of unity which drove us despite differences to proudly hail our fellow citizens as one with us. Is that really something we want to lose?

For what it’s worth…


Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novel The Worker Prince, the collection The North Star Serial, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chatevery Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. He can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog. His second novel, The Returning, sequel to The Worker Prince, is forthcoming in Summer 2012.

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