I was listening to a talk by Ram Dass, my teacher, the other day, and he said something that I found really challenging, about appreciating difference. He was proposing that we needed to learn how to simply appreciate the difference between different people who weren’t like us, rather than judging them as better or worse. He compared it to how we are with plants: we appreciate their diverse beauty and distinctiveness rather than judge them.

My initial reaction was to agree with him and castigate myself because I certainly judge other people some of the time.

As I thought about it more, I began to wish that he were here in the flesh, so I could debate it with him! I am good at appreciating our differences to a certain level: different histories, cultures, skin colour, shape, interests talents. I enjoy meeting people who are different from me because it is an opportunity to widen my own horizons.

The sticking point comes when they demonstrate values or behaviours which are at odds with my core values. I cannot accept cruelty, abuse, manipulation, misuse of power, to name a few. These go against values which are fundamental in every religion.

I then went back to the plants! I love my diverse mix of plants, I love woodland, but there are some plants which are definitely thugs! They may look attractive in the first place, but they take over the space, bullying other plants and using up the goodness of the soil. These ones I have to take out.

Now I know Ram Dass well enough to know that he would say that we should look past the behaviour and see that the soul of that person who’s behaving badly is either a ‘young soul’ that we could feel sorry for, that it has this incarnation, or that it has come to each us a lesson by being a nasty person, so we can remember what goodness and kindness is.

He was an amazing being, who could do that a lot of the time. I’m not there yet. I do judge some people for their behaviour and find it unacceptable at a fundamental level. I believe that kindness and consideration for others are crucial in this world and we need to stand up and speak out against those who offend these values.

What do you think?


  1. Plants that behave ‘badly’ are often in the wrong habitat – transplanted there by humans. Or their native habitat has been disrupted by humans so that the natural checks and balances that regulate their lifecycle have been removed or reduced. Can we apply that analogy to some of those differences in behaviours or core values that we judge as unacceptable?

    I fundamentally agree with you that kindness and consideration for others are crucial and that there are behaviours and values that must be called out as unacceptable or held in check.

  2. I appreciate that people bring different skills, knowledge, understanding and behaviours to every situation and that you often end up with a better result. However, like you, when their values set is at odds with my own I struggle. I have often seen people achieve good ends through an awful process and I choose to have nothing to do with such people. I will continue to change the world in my way with like minded people. It makes for a calmer life.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *