You're sitting at a table, having a meal with some friends. Bowls of soup are served to everyone at the table. Before tasting the soup, the person next to you reaches for the salt and pepper, and for the next 20 seconds vigorously shakes into the soup more salt and pepper than you would use in a month.
You have a pained look on your face. These thoughts immediately go through your mind: "Why would you put salt and pepper in soup, or on any dish, before you taste it? How do you know how much to add?" You might also think, "How can someone put so much salt and pepper in their food?"
Of course, the roles could be reversed. You might be the one who loves to put a lot of salt and pepper on your food and the person next to you eats the soup without adding salt or pepper. In that case, you think, "How can she eat this bland soup without putting any seasoning in it?"
When it comes to salt, pepper, onions, garlic, curry or just about any type of seasoning, we tend to see things only one way - our way. It's hard for us to understand how someone could enjoy food when it is not seasoned as we think is appropriate. We cringe when we see someone "overdoing" or "under-doing" the spices.
How we season our food is a matter of preference and personal taste. There is no right or wrong way to use seasonings. Furthermore, the way in which another applies salt and pepper does not affect us in any way. They're not putting the salt and pepper in your soup. They are putting the spices in their own soup.
Our world is so diverse, and yet it is difficult for us to accept each other's preferences. Often, when we see people doing things we wouldn't do, our mind says:
Why aren't they thinking as I think? Why aren't they acting as I would act?
Your mind would often have you believe that your way is superior. Your beliefs and habits are shaped by your genetics and your environment. Each person has different genetics and has grown up in an environment that is different than yours. Why expect everyone to come to the same conclusion?
Our spiritual growth comes when we learn to accept that others have different preferences, and we honor those preferences. There is no universal religion that everyone will agree to practice. There is no universal political viewpoint that all will accept. There is no one way of raising children that all cultures will agree upon. Marriage customs will vary from culture to culture.
Getting people to agree on these issues is like trying to get everyone to use the same amount of salt and pepper on their food. It's not going to happen.
The diversity in this world is beautiful and we can open our hearts to it. Within our own country and in our relations with people in other countries, we need to continually remind ourselves that it's perfectly acceptable for people to have preferences. If the other person is not harming us, why can't we just smile and get on with life?
The next time you're tempted to judge or criticise the way other people think or act, realize that in most cases, they're just using a different amount of salt or pepper than you would use. Allow them to have their preferences, and there is no need to even consider what you would do.
Wisdom is having a lot to say and not always saying it. Think before you act; think twice before you speak.