Initial Thoughts on Buber – Regarding Conflict & Kindness


In the Merriam-Webster dictionary Humanity is defined as the quality or state of being human or the quality or state of being kind to other people or to animals. Humans being kind other humans is easy. We create difficulties when we choose (consciously or subconsciously) not to see other people as humans.

Being kind to other people becomes simple when we see them for what they really are and not what we “deceive” ourselves into believing they are. We treat humans differently than we treat objects. Human’s are like us. They breathe, they have feelings, and they are people. When we view people as objects they turn into something other than humans.

Martin Buber’s classic I and Thou teaches that there are two basic worldviews that we to apply to every interaction. The first “I-You” is where we see others as humans, as part of us, in the present tense. The second is “I-It” where we view others as objects, as things of the past, as items to use.

As we separate people from ourselves, as we stereotype, as we apply attributes to people the way we would things like cars, houses, tools, and food we dehumanize them; thus we end up treating them as objects. People are not objects and this is where the error is made.

Whenever we are in a situation where we notice our own feelings of compassion, empathy, understanding, or patience begin to wane towards other humans it would make sense to stop and picture the person you are dealing with as a friend, as a brother, as a sister, as a parent or child. As we do this, our internal thought process can begin to change. While our opinions and ideas might not change, our ability to overcome conflict will be greatly enhanced. Instead of giving them power over our emotions, we take control back over what we feel and how we express it.

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