I keep thinking of people as living stories. Stories we each weave from we see, hear and are told. We choose which stories to believe, which to reject, which to pull threads from, weaving parts of those stories into our own.
Take, for instance, the thread “Ahmed is a Muslim.”
Our reaction depends on the story we have already woven. Do we fear him? Do we embrace him as a brother? Do we not care at all? The answer is already there, in the fabric of our lives.
Unless we encounter something completely new, that is always true.
We have never met Ahmed, but we believe we know all kinds of things about him, based on a single thread of his story. That’s the root of all bias, all stereotypes, all preconceptions. Any new information is compared to the pattern already woven, and incorporated or discarded.
To change, we need to unpick parts of our stories.
For some of us, the weave is pretty loose. We are content leaving loose ends floating around, and it’s relatively easy to pull out some of the weft, as new threads pass through our lives.
Some of us weave our internal stories so tightly that it’s nearly impossible to pull a single thread. If one thread turns out to be faulty, we weave more tightly around it, so it’s not visible. We “double down” because we fear if we pull a thread, the entire fabric will unravel.
Rather than that, we’ll put up with diametrically opposed, even mutually exclusive patterns in the weave, ignoring the discord. That feels less risky than reweaving.
Because reweaving, while always possible, takes enormous amounts of courage.
Courage that can only come from willingness to examine the inconsistency, which will give us strength to undo the error, and reweave.