We Don’t Have to Agree to Be Supportive

“Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones.”

That simple, poignant statement is a life lesson about transparency-defined as being free from pretense or deceit, or to be readily understood.

No matter how divergent our journeys to this point have been, each of us has, at some stop along the way, learned this lesson. We’ve learned it enough to recite it, but we’ve largely failed to learn from it.

 When we cast stones from our glass houses in an effort to reveal perceived faults in others, we expose our own flaws. In the end, our homes, our safe places, are shattered.  No community remains. When our communities are compromised in this manner, we’re forced to make a difficult choice. We must either move on to find a new safe place, or rebuild. Those of us who choose to rebuild homes within our community might attempt to learn from our mistakes by using a stronger material, like bricks.

The problem is that, eventually, we will have to face another painful lesson. Our efforts to rebuild with this stronger material only serve to isolate us further. Brick walls don’t build community any more than throwing rocks through glass.

At this point, you may be asking yourself how this pertains to autism.  Consider for a moment one of the many virtual communities for autism support. That community is supposed to be a safe place  where we can feel at home. It was created with the intention of being a place where we are comfortable to discuss the challenges autism has led us to face, as well as our triumphs. It was designed to be a place to spread awareness with the hope of creating a better future. Additionally, it was intended to be an environment free of judgement, free of casting stones.

 Just as you can’t assign autism one generalized definition, you can’t successfully build a home with one material. Glass, alone, is too weak and leaves us overexposed. Brick, alone, creates only a barrier and blocks our channels for true communication.

In making the conscious decision to share our true selves in a virtual community, we put a lot on the line, emotionally. Many  who contribute to these communities are sharing their children’s circumstances, as well. It’s painful when someone judges us as individuals or parents. It’s excruciating when someone shatters the glass, and passes judgement on our children. When we resort to building brick walls out of fear of being shattered, we lose the very transparency that makes our communities, our safe places, so valuable.

When we search the meaning of a word in a dictionary, it’s common to find a multitude of definitions. We accept those differences at face value. We don’t become angry or judgmental! Why, then, are we unable to accept that, just as singular words have many different meanings, autism plays very different roles in each of our lives? Why have we begun to approach those in our own communities so defensively?

The bottom line is that we don’t always have to agree to be supportive. I’m not suggesting that we live in glass houses, but I do think it’s time that  we consider our differences to be merely varied perspectives, not flaws. There is so much to be learned in our community. We have, at our fingertips, a wealth of knowledge and a broad enough perspective to create an immensely positive impact on society!  However, we are currently creating our own roadblock. We cannot learn from one another from behind brick walls.

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