When I meet with students about a behavior issue, a rather large portion of them open with some variation of the statement, “I didn’t do it.” I’ll be honest in saying that I understand. I’ll be even more honest in saying that I can relate. Accepting personal responsibility for our actions is one of the absolute hardest things to do. It’s far easier to explain something away by giving our interpretation of the events as we recall them. Not to downplay how important personal perspective is to any situation (for another time), but typically giving our side of the story means we leave more than a few details out. Always it means that we aren’t necessarily taking into account how fully our words or actions have impacted someone else. It all really and truly is human nature. As much as we’d like everyone to feel the same way about everything as we do, and as much as we’d like to believe it would make for an easier life, it’s not going to happen. No, seriously, it isn’t.
People are different. Now that seems like an obvious enough phrase, and it even seems it wouldn’t be a phrase people would actually debate. However, reflecting on this further we quickly realize that embracing this reality is not comfortable for everyone (Yes, that was another example of how people are different). It’s not that people don’t have similarities, it’s that people also have differences. Some of those differences are obvious, and some not so obvious. Indicating that we’re all the same may make things feel a little safer for ourselves, but it fails to acknowledge the extraordinary differences that make us so amazingly unique.
Being in the state of denial about cultural differences is a place many of us can be, it’s a place many of us can leave, and it’s a place many of us can return to on occasion. The ability to move from that place is a step in developing intercultural responsiveness. We must constantly be challenging ourselves and others to keep “denial” a place we may potentially visit from time to time, but refuse to remain.