Befriending Strangers

How are we to deal with people who come to us from the homes they have left behind?

These people are strangers to us at first. He or she is the Unknown Person and at this point we know practically nothing about this Stranger. Maybe we know something of his or her homeland’s reputation or maybe all we know is what this person looks like to us. Until there is initial contact there is no real knowing of the person and no meaningful shift can begin toward “de-strangerizing” the Unknown Person. Before we can actually know the Stranger as a fellow human being it is all too easy to project our own fears onto that person.

Perhaps the most common thing to imagine, as well as perhaps the most understandable, is to see the Stranger as a threat. This is a bit of ancient survival programming we have inherited courtesy of our distant ancestors. We modern people might be tempted to Boo and Hiss at our primitive ancestors for burdening us with this innate fearfulness but let’s not. Instead let’s honor them because the truth is that without their survival skills we wouldn’t be here to reflect on this issue. We, their descendants, need to recognize that bit of ancient programming for what it is: A once-upon-a-time necessity. The mistake that we must avoid now is to use this relic of human programming as if it is today’s cutting edge technology.

One of our characteristics as human beings is our inherent capacity to transcend our primitive instincts. We are built to learn and grow from our mistakes and slowly evolve toward becoming more enlightened beings. As a species, we are a work-in-progress, thousands of years into a process that is still quite incomplete.

Growing up requires us to move beyond our primitive Fear-based orientation to life. We need to mature into a Love-based orientation to living in our world. Embracing a Love-based mode of being and interacting does not mean that we no longer get scared. We cannot simply delete the old programming. Like it or not, it is part of who we are. What it means is that we no longer have to be limited by fear as we live our lives. As we increasingly move into a more mature level of consciousness we have greater access to our intrinsic capacity for Love-based interactions with others.

None of this means that we suddenly throw all caution to the wind. It means that we move through our situations with appropriate care based on a rationality that naturally emerges from healthy love.

As we return to our hypothetical Stranger, we need to make contact with this as yet Unknown Person in order to have actual observations to take the place of our primitive fear-based fantasies. A meaningful question to consider is: How shall we choose to initiate contact with the Stranger?

The most reasonable way to make contact with Strangers is to welcome them as potential friends. Yes, we still need to be aware of possible dangers and observe proper caution as we start making contact but this choice represents the best way to utilize our own freedom for maximum advantage. If we initiate our encounter with the Stranger in a benevolent fashion the probability is that the Stranger will reciprocate. If we treat him or her as a threat it is likely that he or she will respond to our fear with fear of their own and start seeing us as a threat as well. This ultimately leads to preparation for the anticipated attack.

Perhaps our greatest “sin” is our willingness to de-humanize and demonize our fellow human beings. Under the right conditions it becomes tempting to reduce the Different Other to some sort of Offending Impediment to our way of life. Part of this temptation may also include a component of righteousness that can (and too often does) reach the level of the Arrogant Assumption that one is “doing God’s will” by de-humanizing the Different One. There is, however, something vitally important that needs to be recognized: It is entirely possible to escape from the prison of fearing and hating the Different One and emerge into what can legitimately be called a state of recovery. This involves an initial process of step-back-from Untruth and then a step of move-toward Truth. At first this recovery can be understood as a growing awareness and conscious rejection of the lies previously assumed to be truths: the mental-trap illusion of “Us vs. Them” and the associated false belief that there just isn’t enough of what we all need so someone will have to do without (“and it’s not gonna be us!”). It is also becomes a process of discovering what is actually true and consciously moving in that direction: every one of us is very human and we are not nearly so different or separate from each other as we once thought. There is also enough for all of us if we are willing to let go of our fear and the greed that emerges from it.

Our fear of the Stranger is solvable and it is solved by becoming aware of the Truth. The Truth, in this case, comes as the answer to the question of who we and the Stranger really are. In each case the answer is the same. Each of us, without exception, is a Sacred Child of the Ultimate Mystery. We all come from the same Original Source of Creation regardless of whether one prefers to think of this as the story of the cosmic “Big Bang”, the Genesis story or any of the countless creation stories human beings have been sharing with each other for thousands of years. If we can accept this perspective, the Stranger is nothing more than someone at a costume party who has not yet taken off their mask and allowed us to see their true face. It may help them to do so if we are willing to show them our true face first.

Finally, it is not so much a question of who the Stranger is but rather a question of who we are and what kind of people we want to be in relation to that Stranger. What are our intentions? Do we want them to be afraid or do we want them to feel welcome?

How would we want to be treated if we were the Strangers?

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