There's a person I've kind of known for some time now. Let's call them Fred. In the last few weeks, I've been talking with Fred more often and I have found myself realising that Fred is actually a good person and I really do like them. That might not sound like a big thing to realise, I know. But there is surprise with that realisation. I'm surprised to find that I like Fred. I am surprised to find that they're really a good person. This made me think.
It came to me that most of my interaction with Fred up until recently has been coloured by another person. We'll call them George. George has known Fred for longer than I have and doesn't have a particularly high opinion of them.
It shocked me that I'd only seen Fred through the lens of George's opinion. I had thought after being caught out by this sort of thing in the past, I'd learned from it. I had thought I'd be better able to recognise it.
It then occurred to me that seeing many things in life is often coloured by the lenses and filters provided by other people. This is a huge part of the conditioning we receive as children - our parents ideals and opinions shape the way we see the world, then the teaching we get at school, the books we read and the tv channels we choose to watch.
As an adult, I like to think that I'm past all that. Question everything is a huge part of my personal philosophy and I know I drive a lot of people a little bit nuts by questioning things they take as gospel. I play Devil's Advocate often when someone says something that I'm sure they haven't thought through very well. So it really did shock me when I realised that I'd allowed this to happen.
Why am I writing about this on a Pagan/Witchcraft blog? Because I feel it's relevant. Much of my frustration with the idiocies I have to deal with as an admin online comes from, I believe, the lenses and filters that people have. There are a heap of dreadful authors out there - this isn't news, I'm sure - many decent groups have a "recommended reading" section and a "books/authors to avoid" section. While we're busy bagging Silver RavenWolf, DJ Conway and Edain McCoy, there are still times when they were the first things we read and we still see our paths through the filters they initially provided.
This may be and probably is an unconscious thing for most of us. We haven't thought about where an aversion to something comes from, why we shy away from certain types of work or the way we still tend to think of Goddess as a generic all-encompassing Divine Feminine Cosmic Barbie Doll.
For me, much of my early days were Dianic. I found it unfulfilling and unbalanced and I found myself besieged by bestial masculine Gods who demanded Their share of my attention. But every now and then I still find myself seeing things from a Dianic point of view.
I think if we make a conscious effort to examine our ideas and beliefs every now and then we can take away the rosy tint, fuzzy focus or blinkers that our early learnings have placed over and around our vision. Make an effort to consider the whys and hows of what we think.
It can be brutal, I'm not going to lie to you. Any time you go through a process of honest self-examination, there are things you find that challenge the picture you have of yourself, that show you up to be not the person you think you are or aspire to be. The trick is to accept it, learn from it, change what needs changing and move on. If you allow yourself to wallow in self-loathing (which is easy to do), then it turns into a blame and punish situation rather than an opportunity to learn and grow.