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You only see what I want to show you…

… or you only see what you want to see.

Everyone knows situations in which people evaluate them differently. This is especially true when evaluating people: What are they up to, what is their goal, what drives them to act the way they do. Are their motives altruistic and honorable or selfish and self-serving. This very question leads to great misunderstanding because it usually directly presupposes an evaluation of a person’s worth. Altruistic means that the person is valuable and good, selfish means that the person is less valuable. We are in the category of good and evil.

One of my first realizations in my life was that it is wrong to think that way. It is not a question of personal worth, but a question of the options available to us, whether we act selfishly or altruistically. Especially in the U.S., I often find myself getting angry because I am obviously not being understood. When I question people in their behavior toward me, it is not to denigrate or valorize them, but to call attention to their behavior. Paradoxically, I learned this from my American mentors and teachers, of all people. Apparently, American culture does not tolerate clarifying questions because they are immediately taken as unwarranted criticism. It takes it very personally: maybe because I’m not American? On the other hand, Americans expect us to heed their criticism, and to do so out of a thoroughly arrogant attitude. So I can understand why they can hardly accept anything from us. As I said, I have never experienced that with my American colleagues, mentors, and teachers. On the contrary, they have always appreciated my nuanced and honest attitude and have been curious and grateful for my cooperation. We are different in many ways, but equal in most – and most importantly, equally valuable. If I seem arrogant, I apologize. But I want to make one thing clear – I will not be denied my expertise in my field. I know what I can do, have worked hard for it and fought even harder for it to achieve what I am today. If someone can’t live with that, that’s not my problem and certainly not my responsibility. I don’t believe in heroes saving the world, but in all of us using our hearts and minds to realize a better world together.

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