Not only are there many paths from here to there, but Here and There are matters of perception. I’m not talking about MapQuest for the multi-universe where we’re standing on a corner in one dimension but not in another. I’m referring to a matter of perspective where we perceive the experience of standing on the corner to be one way while others perceive it to be another. And how could we not? Perception is, after all, personal.
With this in mind, it seems foolish to me to press our paths upon others, and yet this happens frequently. When we’re excited about having found the key that unlocks secrets to success, blasts through limitations, or brings us peace of mind, we want to share it with the world. Why wouldn’t we? It’s noble to want to help others. It’s generous to share information and resources that can improve lives. But it is also admirable to operate from a place of humility that acknowledges the limits of our personal perception.
What is right for us is not necessarily right for others—no matter how popular, accredited, or ancient it happens to be.
When it comes to our individual perception of life, majority does not rule and authority does not rank. We must find our own way. Whether we are following bread crumbs graciously dropped by others or trailblazing through the trees, the compass that steers us is marked by role models. We move towards the paths of people who demonstrate qualities that we want to emulate. In this way, we can find what feels right for us. This is also how others will find what is right for them. Sometimes, we forget that part and behave like a compassionate person, beating compassion into others!
Sharing is welcome. It begins with the premise that we all have experiences. It allows for differences of opinion and tends to rely on role-modeling for persuasion. If the receiver likes what they hear and what they perceive to be the result that they are seeing, they might give it a try. If they don’t, they won’t. Either way, the experience (or information) has been shared and those involved feel benefited.
Proselytizing operates from the premise that our experiences are superior and that we have a right, or perhaps even an obligation, to press those experiences on others. Permission is not requested nor is it required. The proselytizing will not end until the recipient either agrees or leaves (sometimes permanently).
When we press our path onto others, we make a series of arrogant assumptions—that our lives, our methods, and our beliefs are superior; that other people share our perception of what we are experiencing and promoting; and that other people want what (we believe) we have for themselves. That’s a lot of assumptions!
Even if we humbly credit an entity other than ourselves, we are still operating from the belief that we have the superior information and that the misguided people of the world should follow our direction! Not so humble.
The problem is that some life-changing experiences feel too huge to be personal. We almost need them to be universal in order to explain the impact that it has had on us. Perhaps that’s why we seek to convert others to our path. Our experience feels more real if others believe in it—more validated if others follow it.
Perhaps we don’t proselytize to convince others but to convince ourselves. Perhaps if we trusted and valued our perceptions more, we wouldn’t need to depend on others for validation. We could simply enjoy our experience and let others decide if our path is worth emulating.