Can we Bring an End to the Us vs Them Mentality?

Posted on August 3, 2017 by Liesl Ulrich-Verderber

In a time that seems to be constantly putting people from different groups, political views, religions, and backgrounds against each other, is there anything we can do to fix it?

When it comes to solving the “great problems” of an era, our most powerful tools for change starts with finding the root of the problem. In this case, it has some pretty deep–but reversible–roots.

Image: People working together to create a human tower
Source: Núria i JC // Flickr

From social media to the nightly news, there always seems to be an “other” to pin blame on. The loss of jobs here is because of people over there. Political strife comes from your party, not my party. It’s not our fault we are at war it’s their fault. And on it goes.

What would happen if we all acknowledged that this us vs them mentality that stokes so many conflicts is not a character judgment on any one person but a basic instinct of our humanity? And armed with this knowledge, could we more easily overcome our biases and work more readily towards unity?

Take a moment to process this video.

Our quick to judge mentality about our outgroups is, at many levels, an evolutionary response that once helped to keep us alive. Like so many archaic responses, though, it doesn’t really serve us in a modern age. It is an instinct that we can now, in a deeply interconnected age, work to overcome.

It’s also important that, as the experiment referenced in the video shows, our actions towards people in our “out-groups” have a ripple effect. Our individual choice to extend a hand toward people who don’t look like us or don’t hold the same beliefs has a greater impact than we may think. So, in a way, we are each capable of influencing the broader us versus them mentality that seems so pervasive.

Last, and I think most critically, it behooves each of us to think about how far we extend our in-groups. Maybe a family member doesn’t share my same set of political beliefs, and yet for that individual, I am able to have compassion and empathy? Why not extend that empathy beyond just them? If we approach the borders of our in-groups with some compassion, suddenly the lines between us don’t seem so definitive.

Let’s face it, our collective future is dependent on a more unified global community. No one country will rise to be the hero, and by that same token, not one country will be the villain. We are all responsible, in our own ways, for contributing to this broader sense of unity.

Stay beautiful & keep laughing!

-Liesl

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