Lillian* says she speaks with her mother almost every day, and sometimes she is taken aback when she hears her mother’s impressions of things. It’s eye opening and often confronting, but it gives Lillian a different perspective through which to see many of society’s issues. From education of our young people, to the refugee situation, and politics on a national and world scale, the conversations Lillian and her mother have are diverse but what it highlights for Lillian is that there is a difference between knowing someone and knowing about them.
“I love hearing my mother’s stories and the way she sees them because they are so different from the way I view things,” Lillian says. “I guess we all see things in our own way, and it can be liberating to consider a different view.”
Different perspectives are often developed over time and can be based on where you were born, how you were raised, if there were any major events as you grew up, the sort of work you did/do, prejudices you may have been subject to (knowingly or not), your circle of friends, your education, books, music and whether or not you followed a religion.
It’s important to acknowledge these things and the impact they can play on your core beliefs and values.
You see, as Lillian wrongly believed, just because she grew up in a house with her mother and the two have shared a close relationship over some 60-odd years it doesn’t mean she knows her mother or her mother knows her.
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“I was born into a wonderful family. There was not much I had to want for. I consider myself to be well-educated, somewhat travelled and have enjoyed a great many privileges,” Lillian says. “But that’s not my mother’s experience.”
Lillian’s mother left her home country for a better life in Australia. She and Lillian’s father worked tirelessly to make ends meet and ensure that Lillian and her siblings had a roof over their heads, clothes on their backs and were able to attend school. While it can be easy to assume that because the two share some commonalities, assumptions can bring to light all sorts of falsities.
There is a danger in surrounding one’s self with only those who are like them, the greatest danger being that there is no challenge. You stick to your own community and find it unbearable when another person dares experience an opinion or a personal value or a belief that differs to your own.
Understanding different personalities is difficult. When face-to-face you can try and decipher facial expressions, hand gestures and how they relate to what is being said. Understanding the emotion behind a person’s words in order to understand their perspective is difficult even when you spend a lot of time talking to that person so it’s not uncommon for relationships to falter.
What does it mean to ‘really’ know someone? Does it require more than just having a basket of facts about that person?