Friday, September 26, 2008

on disdain

I had a fascinating conversation with someone about disdain the other day. It had to do with why we sometimes cling so tightly to this emotion, this habit. Basically, we discussed how disdain allows us to maintain a sense of superiority (or at least of not being something that we dislike), but at the same time sets us up for a kind of self-loathing. Since there is almost always some part of ourselves that recognizes, understands, or contains what we dislike -- we are setting ourselves up to harshly condemn that part of ourselves, to set up a kind of war on ourselves.

Some people resist giving up their disdain because they equate doing so with acceptance, with agreement. But learning to have compassion for those who, say, have prejudices, doesn't mean that we must become prejudiced ourselves. It merely means that we can understand the fear and false assumptions that underlie prejudice -- that we can appreciate how toxic and difficult these can be because we have experienced them ourselves.

In other words, getting rid of disdain involves an acceptance of our shared humanity. It means joining with, being a part of, the human race. It means working to create change through dialogue, understanding, and peace -- rather than through rejection, hostility, or anger.

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