April 1, 2011: ‘Golden Rule’ should be applied to acceptance, by Patrick Sieben

Have you ever felt like you did not belong? In a place? With a group? Have you ever been shunned or ignored by others?

Being accepted and “allowed” to belong is one of the most important ingredients necessary for peace — not only peace within a community, but peace with one’s inner self. Acceptance is often taken for granted in the context of casual acquaintance, but in reality most of us have at one time or another felt “left out.”

Maybe it was a conversation that was abruptly ended when our presence was detected. Maybe there was a gathering of friends to which we were not invited. On a more personal level, it could have been loved ones excluding us from conversation or sharing of feelings. The feeling of not being accepted, whether actual or imagined is a most powerful depressant to the soul.

There are quite a few “reasons” someone might not be accepted. Differences in beliefs, ethnicity, gender or lifestyle are often the basis for exclusion. Even more seemingly trivial excuses have been offered such as a person’s physical attractiveness or perceived wealth or social status. Stigma may also be attached for such offenses as political party affiliation, single parenthood or even occupation.

“Why would we want to hang out with her? You know she’s divorced with two kids, works at the mill and voted for George Bush!”

Although some may find validity in these “reasons,” we might consider a different outlook. We might try accepting one another for what we are, regardless of our own biases and prejudices.

I can guess that for some this idea may sound a little like a sermon on Sunday morning extolling the virtues of why we all are worthy and deserved to be loved. That’s not my intent.

There is a much simpler concept to be addressed: How would it feel if you were in “their” shoes? We all have aspects about ourselves that could very well be “reasons” to be excluded. That we have associations with others at all is often a miracle.

Look in the mirror. Would you like for that person looking back at you to judge you for your flaws and faults? Do you meet the standard of acceptance that you set for others?

Four years ago when I relocated to Concordia to teach music at Cloud County Community College, I was understandably nervous about my prospects for “fitting in.”

First off, I was from California, so I feared all the stereotypes people may have held regarding where I came from. I was not married, not affiliated with a church, had longer hair, listened to rock ’n’ roll music and did not belong to either major political party. In other words, I felt like I was bringing a little “diversity” to this small town.

Fortunately for me, I was welcomed into the community and have been made to feel a part of this place and these people and am forever grateful for the opportunities offered to me here. I have firsthand knowledge of what it feels to be on the receiving end of the Golden Rule.

Let us extend the spirit of this gem of wisdom to everyone we encounter: DO UNTO OTHERS AS YOU WOULD HAVE THEM DO UNTO YOU!

— Patrick Sieben is the Director of Bands at Cloud County Community College and a member of the Concordia Year of Peace Committee.

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