“When you live on a round planet, there's no choosing sides.” ~Wayne Dyer
Research shows that rooting for a team, identifying with a group and enjoying the camaraderie you feel with other fans, can increase your sense of personal happiness.
While it's satisfying to feel a sense of belonging, it can be dangerous to carry this us-against-them philosophy into other areas of your life. We do it all the time.
A man connects so deeply to his heritage that he puts up walls with people from different backgrounds.
Or a woman believes something with so much conviction that people who disagree become immediate adversaries.
In this way, we shut ourselves into little boxes of people and relate to everyone else as outsiders. The Dalai Lama says we don't need to give up our sense of belonging to communities; we just have to recognize various levels—the highest connecting us by a fundamental human bond.
So, rather than relating to others based on what makes us different, we relate based on what characteristics we share.
If there's one common theme on this site, and in Buddhism, in general, it's that people aren't all that different. We all want to feel good and purposeful. We all want to avoid feeling pain.
Ironically, it's painful to see other people as sitting on the other side, believing or expecting the worst in them, holding up a guard, ever-ready for an attack.
People will always be fundamentally different—what we believe, where we've come from, what limitations and possibilities we have. And people will always be fundamentally the same—what necessities we aim to meet, our emotional responses, our desire to make a difference in some way.
Where you place your focus determines how connected you feel to people, how much compassion you have for their experiences, and how fulfilling your interactions become.
Find a middle ground between sides today, even if it's just a little step, and you may be surprised by the sense of relief and reciprocal acceptance you feel.