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The One Difference Between Us

Do you ever wonder what makes people behave the way they do?

We are each special in our own way, as we each have our own individual expression and our own strengths. Clearly, we all came here with different bodies, but at our core, we are the same One.

We are all made of the very same Divine stuff. The Life and Breath in us is the same. Living Vitality is right here within and flowing throughout each one of us – Intelligent and Automatic (causing all of the systems of the body to function with one another), Vibrant, Harmonious, and Abundant.

Yet people behave so differently. Why?


We see some people who are generally pleasant and well-mannered. These people appear to be pretty level-headed. Then we see others and think, “Why does he do that?” or “Why does she act like that?” or “Why are they so angry or loud or combative or possessive or controlling?” or “Why do they start so much trouble?” or “What’s her problem?”

A different set of questions could be, “Why he so shy or quiet” or “Why is she so self-effacing?” or “Why is he so unsociable?” or “Why is she so solitary?”

The vast differences between people can be baffling at times, especially when we look at situations and feel that certain responses are totally uncalled for.


We look around and identify most with people who think, say and do things like we do them. We unconsciously reason within ourselves, “OK, that’s reasonable. That’s normal.”

But then we see some people doing things we couldn’t imagine doing in 100 years. We see or hear of someone doing something that to our mind is so awful, insensitive, and sometimes even heinous.

And then there’s someone else who seems much more patient, tolerant, friendly, generous or sacrificing than we would ever imagine yourself being.

Or we see someone who is bolder, more confident, frank, forthcoming, open, honest, authentic, outgoing or outspoken than we’re used to.

One person seeing one of these people is inspired and full of admiration thinking, “Wow, I wish I could be like that!” Another looks at the same person and shakes his head, “What a sucker. What’s wrong with her? Is she stupid or just naïve?” Big difference in perception.


Yet despite our many differences, human beings are very much the same. We all pretty much have common sense. We all live and learn something from our experiences. “Ouch, fire is really hot! I won’t touch it anymore.” So what makes us different?

Somebody may say, “No I’m not sure we all do have common sense; nor that we all learn. Some people never learn.” Well, while I agree that it sure can seem that way sometimes, I’m going to have to disagree. I still think people are all basically the same, and they generally operate the same way.

Modus Operandum

“What do you mean telling me that people operate the same way?! Have you not seen the difference between the behavior of saints like Mother Theresa and devils like Jeffrey Dahmer? Do you think they operated the same way?”

Again: Yes, at a core level, I do. What’s the difference between a saint and a devil anyway? I have come to believe that only one thing makes our lives and experiences any different.

So what then is this difference between us all? Why do people behave so differently?

Only One Difference

As far as I can tell, there is really only one difference between us, from which all other apparent differences stem… our understanding.

We learn from how we perceive our experiences. If your experience of life and of yourself were the same as the person you think is completely opposite who and what you are – diametrically opposed to everything you perceive yourself to be – you would essentially be him or her.


Never mind your physical body – that’s a whole “nother” story for a different day several different days. (In fact, I’m not prepared to even touch that one.)

But if your experience of life were the same as the person you feel behaves completely opposite you, and therefore your thinking processes, perception, interpretation and understanding of life and events the same, you’d probably do the very same things they do. We’re basically talking about the arrangement of your soul/mind. If you had the same inner prototype and experience, you’d do the same things. Isn’t that really all that separates us from one another?

Somebody said, “Yeah, but that’s a whole lot. That’s no small ‘one difference.” Hmm, well… if the largest gaps couldn’t be closed or reconciled, then I’d agree. But let’s say that maybe – just maybe – they can. Then would it necessarily be all that much?

How We Learn

We all perceive and respond or react to similar events differently because our understanding is different. Above we talked about how it would appear that “Some people never learn.” Prior to that I made the assertion that we all learn from our experiences.

A person can “learn” something (in other words form a belief or mental association) from an experience without it being the same thing you (or even a large majority of people) would likely learn from the same situation. He is simply learning something different because he interprets it differently.

For instance, earlier we mentioned touching fire and recoiling upon feeling the heat. This child – let’s call him John – learned that fire is hot and it burns. He learned that he doesn’t like this feeling and it hurts. As a result of what he learned, he avoids playing with fire.

Another small child – let’s call him Jeff – goes to put his hand in the fire. We look at him and he’s happy as can be. Smiling and waving away at the fire. Of course, we grab him and pull him back very quickly before he can do much damage to himself. The next day, he sees the flame and goes to it again to play with it. He is a sweet, innocent, bright-eyed, perfectly happy, healthy, joyous child – not a care in the world. “But,” we ask ourselves, “why doesn’t he learn?”

When we find out he cannot feel pain, now we understand. Of course, he’ll go back and do it again. He doesn’t have the experience of pain to really understand or even believe Mommy when she tells him, “Fire burns – don’t touch.”

But did he not learn something? What did Jeff learn? He learned, “Ooh, fire is pretty. Fire is fun.” As a result of what he learned he says to himself, “Let’s play with it again.” If he could feel pain, then the first time he put his hand to the fire, he would have developed a pain association with fire. Instead, he doesn’t believe in getting burnt and doesn’t even know what it is, as he has developed no frame of reference for pain.

Emotional Interpretations

This was an extreme physical example. But doesn’t it work that way mentally also? Doesn’t it work that way emotionally as well? Yet our sometimes innocent interpretations and responses still have far-reaching effects on the ways that others view us, judge us and interact with us.

The first child, John, is very compliant when his mother tells him to stay away from the flames.

The second child, Jeff, is furious that Mommy’s trying to stop him and throws an awful tantrum.

There is a whole lot to be said for parenting and the nurture of a child as well. But even in situations where parents do all they know how, and truly do seem to be doing the “right” things by their children, many children can still grow up to have issues of one type or another, to one degree or another. I submit that sometimes some of this is the result of the child’s early perceptions.

It would be easy to compare the two toddlers alongside each other. We judge what we don’t understand. It would be easy to observe John’s behavior and say, “What a good child! He’s so obedient.” Then we look at Jeff and say, “What a monster! What is his problem?!”

The problem is this: His interpretation is different. He doesn’t understand.

Again, we judge what we don’t understand. He also has judged what he did not understand.

He doesn’t understand or believe the same thing as John. He wasn’t a monster when he was flailing about in his joy in the flames. His heart is big. It was open and loving. Jeff’s perception/understanding – and therefore his belief system – about himself and others is different.

John understands, “Fire burns. I don’t want to get burnt again. Mommy’s nice. She’s telling me what’s best for me. I know she’s right. Mommy loves me. I trust her and believe in her and what she says (well, most of the time anyway). I feel loved and secure.”

Jeff understands, “Why does Mommy keep getting in my way?! Who does she think she’s kidding? What is “burnt”? I don’t get burnt. All I know is I was having fun, and Mommy doesn’t want me to have fun. But Mommy’s supposed to love me. WHY doesn’t Mommy want me to have fun?! BAD Mommy!!”

But since he’s only one or two, he can’t do too much about it but kick and scream, hit, pull things down and disobey.

He may even feel, “Mommy doesn’t love me. Why does she neglect my needs? Don’t I matter too? I’m hurt. I feel so unloved. But I need you, Mommy!!”

“Why are you punishing me now? Are you mad at me just because I’m upset Mommy? You were wrong; I was just having fun. I feel so misunderstood and very alone. I don’t like that. That makes me angry. I don’t trust you anymore! I can only depend on me.”

At that age, “I don’t trust Mommy” translates to “I don’t trust life or anyone in it.” A dark shadow is now cast over Jeff’s world from a very early age, but he does what he can to get by in life with his tainted perception of the world.

The Same But Diametrically Opposed

Both children appear about the same. They are toddlers about the same age. In appearance, health-wise and mentally, they both are not much different from most children their age, but their subjective experiences are completely different from each other. Therefore their expectations of life and responses to life are different. Consequently, life shows them opposite sides of itself.

John sees, perceives and draws out the good side of life and the better side of others. Therefore John also continually draws out and expresses the better side of himself. (Therefore he knows himself to be “good.”) And so he goes on growing to higher heights of understanding as he applies the good that he knows and becomes more intimately familiar with principles of life – how life works.

Thus, he intuitively flows more and more with the principles of life. As a result he internalizes spiritual law and grows spiritually. He honors all others. When times get challenging, he chooses to make efforts to master himself, and life rewards him for his high thinking.

Jeff, on the other hand, sees and perceives the dark side of life and brings out the worse side of others. Or his actions simply alienate them. Then he gets angry about it. The loneliness depresses him and brings out the darker sides of himself, and over time he comes to question himself more and more, and perhaps like himself less and less.

This is very painful to live with, so much of the time, Jeff unconsciously projects much of the negativity on others. He blames them (as remember that originally he feels he didn’t do anything “wrong”, but rather is a victim of others’ actions and intolerance – the result of others not caring for or understanding him.)

Yet when he can’t take responsibility for his feelings and actions, and instead victimizes others because he feels victimized, this causes even more inharmony amongst others and repels them further from him. He comes to be known as a “problem child.”

Because of their different subjective experiences and their different understanding of life, the two boys experience different ranges and intensities of emotion. John’s and Jeff’s emotional stability is completely different. Yet if they swapped personal experiences – what they perceived physically, understood subjectively and felt emotionally on the inside – they would swap responses as well.

But observed from the outside, who could have known it? It’s personal. It can only be experienced from the inside.

A Private Matter With Far-Reaching Effects

Now let’s say (for the purposes of this example) the neurological disorder is not discovered and explained. Jeff is not able to resolve his hurt, anger, resentment and trust issues through understanding the truth… He can grow up in confusion, pain, frustration, alienation and loneliness.

Perhaps with the severity of his pain and mistrust at the tender age of one or two, his psychological/ developmental/emotional growth was even stunted and developed no further.

But no one really knows or understands his inner pain. How can they? They don’t have a similar experience or point of reference to understand such irrational “nonsense”. To complicate matters, Jeff doesn’t understand what the problem is either. Yet even if he thought he was starting to understand, he wouldn’t communicate it, because he understands/believes that the world is not trustworthy and doesn’t truly care.

His understanding is that the world wouldn’t understand, and would scorn and reject him anyway. (And to some extent, he is right. Most people today wouldn’t understand [not without a really open mind, a leaning towards psychology and a lot of communication anyway]. Nevertheless, Jeff’s understanding of the world is still FAR more dark and hopeless than reality would dictate, because of his childhood experience.)

As we discussed earlier in an earlier article, Everything Begins in MIND, Jeff’s experiences in life are all patterned after his beliefs. His emotional energy within attracts to him real life situations in which he can see and experience what he believes.

So now he’s all grown up, jaded and apathetic. He believes his negative, untrusting imagery about life even more. Why wouldn’t he? That’s all his experience ever showed him through the dirty, distorted lens over that beautiful, loving, cheerful, Divine spark within.

As an adult, he has learned to control himself somewhat in order to camouflage and get along in society as best as he can. But when he reaches his breaking points, he has much more serious behavioral problems than he did when he was two. His actions and the repercussions of those actions now are serious. Things are not going well for him and those close to him – even dangerously.

…all because of his personal perception and lack of understanding which were unable to be recognized and communicated by him, nor able to be discerned by others.

Not only that, but he was always too angry and afraid, based on his belief system, to trust anyone to talk about it. (All too often, society was not very perceptive, understanding and forgiving.) As painful as the situation is he may even come to a place where he can’t even be honest with himself most of the time… because he’s having trouble accepting himself.

So nobody knows what the problem is and how to solve it. People have their own lives to live. How can they reason with someone beyond reason and still lead a productive life? It’s much simpler to just label him evil and write him off.

Good and Evil?

But is Jeff truly any more “evil” than the other “good” child, John? And is the John really all that “good” to begin with?

“Now behold, once came to him [Jesus] and said to him, ‘Good teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?’

So he said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but One, that is, God…’”

(Matthew 19:16-17)

Or did John simply have a more manageable experience than Jeff? Or did John just have the benefit of better tools (a clearer understanding/discernment/wisdom/knowledge) with which to manage his life?

At their base, are they not both essentially the same, simply experiencing life differently, and therefore expressing it differently?

If we’re going to judge from the outer appearance, one might even go so far as to say that Jeff may even have been a more innocent, sweet, joyful, open and passionate child than John. But as vividly as he felt his joy and love, his pain was perhaps that much harder to cope with.

Finding a Balance

It can be easy to point a finger at what we don’t understand, and to judge it. The more aware of this we become, however, the easier it becomes to be more understanding with and accepting of others. We become more willing to engage in dialogue – to try to understand, communicate, or at least more willing to forgive (or more willing to learn to forgive).

Am I suggesting that we delude ourselves into denying the facts? No. I’m not suggesting that we just accept all kinds of craziness disrupting and destroying our plans and lives. There does need to be damage control. Sometimes it means we need to lay low until the storm passes over. Sometimes it means we need to insulate ourselves, and prepare ourselves for worst-case scenarios.

Clearly destructive behaviors need correction. But this is because some perceptions could use correction. Sometimes this may come from giving verbal correction. Attempts at clear, affirming, honest yet empathetic communication can be helpful. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always work, as people sometimes have a tendency to get stuck in their minds when they are scared or upset. So sometimes it comes from setting a better example. Depending on the situation, there may need to be some form of discipline imposed to restore/maintain order in life for the good of all.

All I’m saying is that the more perceptive we become, the more understanding and compassionate we are to still care (or to want to care) about people in spite of problems. The less personally we take the situation. We understand that at the root, pain/misunderstanding underlies all inharmony. (I personally am learning not to take personal injustices too personally. Not always an easy lesson, but I’m growing and learning to master myself [and my circumstances] all the more for it.)

We recognize that even when there is discipline, some form of therapy, re-learning or thought training would be helpful to encourage a paradigm shift in the understanding, so as not to experience things in a painful way. (I am finding this to be helpful for the most “normal” of us as well.)

A Sense of Family

When we become more aware of the many differences in understanding, it becomes easier to accept that as different as people are, people really are much more like us than we thought.

It becomes easier to identify with our fellow human beings, and to empathize with them, realizing that a lot of our problems with each other, are problems of perspective and, at their core, are not intentional.

We understand not only that ALL people have feelings and challenges, but that even the worst “intentional” malice often has its roots in some type of maladjustment or misunderstanding (whether conscious or unconscious). A misunderstanding about others’ intentions – about Life – about oneself.

We all have different situations and circumstances. Yet even with similar situations, people turn out differently. The question has been asked how children growing up in the same household can be very different from each other. They share more of the same circumstances than most people do.

So people wonder “How can one be stunningly happy, upstanding and successfully productive in life, while the other is angry and malicious, and lives in and out of prison?” (Yet their mother instinctually and unconditionally loves both the same – perhaps she loves the wayward one even more in spite of his misdeeds… but he needs it more.)

Circumstances vs. Understanding

The answer would appear to be that perhaps the objective circumstances of one’s upbringing are often not nearly as important as our subjective interpretations of them. (It is worth noting, however, that the birth order or position in the family and the circumstances surrounding adjustment to the birth of the other siblings does alter the circumstances somewhat for each child, and can contribute to the early childhood experience being different for each child.)

Perhaps the most significant difference between people is not that we have different sets of circumstances (although this certainly does a lot to set the stage), but that we each perceive and experience even the same sets of circumstances differently.

This is because our understanding is different. We perceive things differently from each other because we all are experiencing life through different filters – different points of reference – different conscious and, perhaps more importantly, unconscious mental associations. These are the filters of our understanding. We have some of our experiences, beliefs and ways of being in common with some sets and classes of people, and we have others in common with others.

The shape of our understanding is formed during our formative days, months and years, and is a collection of our mental and emotional interpretations and associations.

Different Perspectives

There are so many different ways to look at things.

Remember the “playing with fire” scenario we discussed above? We think, “Why would someone play with fire? … unless he’s stupid, naïve, crazy? …oh, or doesn’t feel pain. ;)

Well, here’s yet another angle: Someone like Jesus Christ (or maybe David Blaine, Criss Angel or even Tony Robbins) might walk through fire. Is that stupid or naïve of them? Probably not – if they can walk through fire and not get burned. No disorder there. Just a higher level of understanding about life, it’s laws and themselves.

Of course, these are all extreme examples with a very tangible physical element. But do you see how this principle of understanding can be applied on every plane – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual?

Our Understanding Dictates Our Lives

We all act based on what we currently know and believe, and we do the best we can with what we understand. Even the thing we try not to act on or to spread around, or sometimes are not even conscious of, finds a way to broadcast itself and manifest itself somewhere in our lives.

Hence, our understanding “stands under” every single aspect of our mental, emotional, physical and social lives.

Once we understand this, we see how very important it is to pay attention to and manage what and how we understand life and everything in it.

“No one, when he has lit a lamp, covers it with a vessel or puts it under a bed, but sets it on a lampstand, that those who enter may see the light.

For nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be known and come to light.

Therefore take heed how you hear [understand]. For whosoever has [in understanding/spiritual perception], to him more will be given; and whoever does not have, even what he seems to have will be taken from him.”

(Luke 8:16-18)

What we become, create, manifest, attract and keep in our lives is dictated by our under-standing.

Societal Implications with Regard to Understanding

Earlier we talked about Jeff’s private pain and how the world would not understand. There is an invisible wall between Jeff and the world. As much as Jeff has a very real problem, let’s look at the other side of this equation.

On some level, it could also be said that the world at large (this is a generalization) also has a problem perceiving, understanding and believing in the “good” residing in Jeff and folks like him. The state of the “world-mind” is not attracting the best in life or in others. It is not drawing the best out of people and especially not those as difficult to understand as him. The world is getting what it believes too.

Because of the world’s lack of spiritual perception and understanding of the inherent good in Jeff, the world can’t do as much to help ease the pain and encourage that side to come out. It doesn’t understand Jeff. He’s “a whole different animal”. The world doesn’t really believe there’s any help or hope for Jeff. Jeff continues to feel alienated, unloved, misunderstood and angry, and consequently continues to alienate others – showing the world what it believes of him, more of the darker, hurt and confused side. Nobody wins.

Do we blame the world for its experience of Jeff and others like him, and therefore it’s perception? Of course not. How can we? Do we blame Jeff for his experience and therefore his perception? How can we really?

But don’t we now understand better how all of this worked together to create a less harmonious picture? The situation is clearly not ideal. But there were reasons for everything.

Things came about the way they did for the reason of different perceptions and life conditioning. Reasons we usually know nothing about. So it’s really not about laying blame one place or the other. It is what it is. Pointing fingers, condemning each other, and not wanting to understand and forgive, or not trying to move past it isn’t going to help the situation get better. It can only make things worse. (Not only that, but hanging onto negative energies can only lengthen personal suffering.)

Discord, Strife, Polarization and Hatred

As far as our humanity is concerned, everyone sees and experiences life at least a tiny bit differently than everyone else. Any multitudinous number of groups can be seen as sharing overlapping views of the world, to greater and lesser degrees of each other. Some groups will experience life vastly different than other groups.

This difference in our understanding is what separates us. Not understanding this is at the root of all of society’s disregard, discord, apathy, intolerance, polarization, hate crimes and war.

When we judge people, it’s because, based on our own understanding of life, we can’t understand how people can be the way they are and do the things they do. And it’s true that some things are very hard to wrap our minds around. We tend to feel, “These things are simply self-evident. Therefore, there’s absolutely no excuse for ‘that’ kind of behavior. What nerve! What disrespect and blatant disregard!” We think, “How could someone not know ‘this’? This standard that I and ‘my people’ live our lives by. No, they must know it. It’s as clear as the nose on your face.” But is it really? To everyone?

The thing is people are not looking at things through our eyes, with our understanding. Most people are looking through the eyes of their own understanding. This is the reason this world is so divided. Likewise, we are not viewing life through others’ eyes, or we would see everything their way. So the question begs asking, “Is everything that even you (or I) believe to be self-evident, really Truth?” Maybe we all have parts of it (and even these seem to change throughout life).


That’s probably why scripture talks about having “the eyes of our understanding enlightened” (Ephesians 1:18). We ALL could benefit from that. Because we all start off looking through lenses that are dirty in some way, to some degree – with some on one side of the wheel looking over at “others” who are diametrically opposed on the other side of the wheel, looking back.

Maybe we need to learn to look through the One eye, instead of the duality and opposition (good vs. evil) of our many eyes.

As the eye of our understanding (what some would call the ‘third eye’) is enlightened, we become more Self-aware and begin to clean the lens – we begin to focus the microscope. The image goes from a wide and blurry wheel with diametrically-opposed opposites, to one tiny centered dot in which we all find ourselves centered as One.

What is “Green”?

Perception, understanding and communication are very interesting.

A color-differentiating woman, Sue, and a color-blind woman, Mary, are sitting in a car at a traffic light. When the light turns green, the color-blind woman makes the color-differentiating woman aware that the light is green.

How does she know this? Because she was taught that ‘whatever color that was, that was showing up in her mind’ was “green”, and/or she was taught that the bottom bulb on the traffic light is green.

Is it the same green that the color-differentiating woman sees? I suppose that might depend on the type of color-blindness, but does the color-differentiating driver even know that her friend is color blind?

No way to really know what’s going on in another’s mind.

Symbols and Labels

Now let’s say this color-blind scenario took place with something different (not a traffic light), during the 1600’s when the idea of “color-blindness” hadn’t been identified and labeled.

We like to label things as symbols. They are points of reference in order to identify and discuss them – in order to get on the same page and better understand what we are talking about. Unfortunately, it seems many of us get caught up with our labels, and the labels come to divide us more and more, as we continue to classify and define ourselves. We move from merely identifying to defining.

But the 1600’s were a time when there was no label for it. Both women were seen to be functioning at about the same capacity. Would Mary even know she was “color blind”? Would she herself even know that others didn’t see the world the way she saw it?


Hmm. I guess she was considered “normal” back then. She probably knew herself to be normal too. Did she miss seeing a more clearly-delineated, or perhaps brighter spectrum of colors? Probably not at the time. This was all she knew, and she was probably satisfied and happy with it. …back then anyway, before we discovered it and labeled it abnormal. Maybe it’s not the “norm” (normal meaning standard to the wide majority). But then again…

On the outside, all we have is common symbols with which to communicate. Some color-blind people can’t differentiate between blue and yellow. But here’s something to consider even with people who can differentiate between ALL colors (or so we think):

I personally know what blue is because as a baby, I was shown and taught “blue”. I know what yellow is because I was shown “yellow”. Therefore, I can communicate the same. As long as I can differentiate between the two, who really knows what blue or yellow look like in my mind?

Is it the same as blue or yellow in your mind? Is it the same as blue or yellow in every other color-differentiating person’s mind?

Even though I differentiate between the seven colors of the rainbow and varying 256 (or however many) shades thereof, I have wondered if I even really perceive colors the same as “the majority” of the world…or if any of us do, for that matter.

What if there really were 256 different hues of “color-differentiation” evenly distributed across all color-differentiating people, and we just didn’t know it (yet)? How would we? We have only our own subjective experience to draw upon.

If each person did, in fact, perceive the 256 color combinations through one of yet another 256 subjective hues, then even the different types of color-blindness wouldn’t be quite as “abnormal”, would they? They would be simply a less-common, less-color-differentiating sect of a broadly-defined, “normal” phenomenon.


Who Knows?

We may walk together in the same world. We may speak the same language. And we may perceive that others understand us (and they may believe so too).

But can we ever really know exactly how what we’re saying is truly filtering through another’s thought processes?

It is purely subjective and can only be known from the inside.

“For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him…” (1 Corinthians 2:11)

… and the arrangement of man’s mind and hence his/her actions come from his/her understanding.



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