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Is there really anything original about us? I hardly believe so. Why? Because we are actually a combination of what everybody we have ever met, has taught us. That does not mean that we are not unique. Each one of us retains different elements from others and fits them in themselves in many various ways. What I want to stress here is that everyone we meet teaches us a lesson about life.

All the experiences we have, positive or negative, are invaluable and build our personalities. Some people reject or abandon us. However hard that may be, it teaches us to move on. Other people hurt us, but only in that way we are motivated to be strong. The people who help us instill the importance of helping others into our psyche. People who are appreciative and generous encourage us to see the good in life. And last, but definitely not least, those who have the ability to love, give us the most precious lesson of all, because through them we learn to love ourselves and others, too.

So, everyone teaches us something. The positive lessons are easily accepted and the positive examples are easily followed. This is taken for granted, therefore I’m not going to deal with it. What is hard to realize, however is how the negative people can also be important teachers, how the negative traits in others can develop positive characteristics in us. More specifically I’m of the opinion that we can learn to be patient and tolerant only when we are obligated to get along -because we work together- with selfish, arrogant or aggressive people.

I also firmly believe that by not returning a negative behaviour to such people there is a chance of making them better. It is not easy to handle imperfect people in life, but this turns out to be a very constructive experience. On the other hand, who can claim that they themselves are perfect. We very often forget that we also have the potential of being annoying to others. The bottom line is that when we try to deal with other people’s imperfections, we learn to accept them and give room to others to accept ours.

Negative situations can teach us many important things, but there is another category of people that can help us grow and develop as personalities. People from other cultures. And this is especially important nowadays when people in the western world tend to become increasingly intolerant and biased toward other cultures. We all view the world through the lens of our experiences. There is nothing original about that. But we tend to forget that there are not universally accepted good and bad courses of actions. Most of our principles and ideals are dictated by the cultures we live in. We cannot avoid that. What we should always bear in mind, however, is that our cultural experiences do not hold any absolute truths about life; or right and wrong.

We people in the western world, are taught to be individualistic. Our culture focuses on people’s personal characteristics and urges us to be impressed by great people doing amazing things in difficult situations. The importance of individual responsibility forms the foundation of our civilization. But look where that has led us. We have become the most conceited and insensitive people. Our ego has been inflated to such an extent that we exploit unscrupulously the rest of the world to satisfy our growing individual needs.

So, let’s stop for a moment and meet and become friends with people form other cultures, for instance, people from Asian countries. These people can give us a totally different aspect of human nature because they are collectivist. They center their attention on how groups accomplish great feats when they cooperate. The people from Asia, I know, learn form a young age to consider important all the people involved in a situation and acknowledge the contribution of everyone working on a project. The point here is not that this style of thought is better. The point is that by spending time with people from other cultures, we can learn a lot about ourselves and especially about our flaws and vices.

All in all a person can learn a lesson from every man he or she meets in live. So be open and tolerant to everyone.

Author: Konstantinos Vovos

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