Grey, n., any of a series of neutral colors ranging between black and white.
Our society is set up to make us believe that we have to have opposites in every situation… black vs. white, good vs. evil, Republicans vs. Democrats, the hero vs. the villain. Meanwhile, those of us who choose not to view the world in black and white are accused of being indecisive and dull.
The truth is, looking at things in black and white— by definition—is limiting. Those who choose to stick to black and white are missing an incredible world full of infinite shades of grey.
Grey can be beautiful. And eye-opening. And inspiring.
Case in point: Susan Boyle of Scotland took YouTube by storm when she tried out for “Britain’s Got Talent.”
I know many people consider her 15 minutes of fame to be over, but I still think hers is a heartwarming story… because it’s a good lesson in the importance of grey.
The 47-year-old church volunteer had spent all of her life with her parents, taking care of them as they grew older and eventually passed away. People who view things in black and white would most likely apply certain negative labels to someone with her life story. Labels like “spinster” or “old maid.”
And as we saw in the video, people in the audience had preconceived notions of her before she even opened her mouth.
The black and white conclusion: [older woman] + [always lived with her parents] + [doesn’t look like a singer you’d see on a Broadway stage] = obviously can’t sing.
The moment she sang her first line, it was clear the assumptions were wrong. Her appearance and age has nothing to do with what she is capable of accomplishing. She forced many people to shift their focus from black and white to grey. It IS possible for someone with her appearance, age, and life story to have a beautiful voice.
In my opinion, there are several reasons this story has been so captivating.
For those who view things in B&W, it proved that labeling people without actually knowing the person is deceiving… in a good way. Looking at the audience in that video, I’ve never seen so many people (including the judges) so happy to be wrong.
Also, her story shows that when you stop viewing things in B&W the world is full of infinite possibilities and opportunities.
We don’t have to be what society perceives us to be… or tries to force us to be.
(Change your Perspective: Many people think of dandelions as a weed. My 6-year-old views them as beautiful flowers and picks bouquets of them for me.)
So much of our B&W-based society tries to pigeonhole us at an early age, whether it be from teachers, coaches, parents, etc.
I spent much of my childhood education convinced that grades weren’t that important, because my teachers didn’t expect good grades from me (I’ll talk more about that another time).
Somewhere along the way, I realized that I was limiting myself. And my possibilities. I was viewing things in black and white.
You see, when you look at things in varying shades of grey you realize all things are possible.
Viewing it in terms of stereotypes from high school:
The “jock” can become an artist….
The so-called “computer geek” can eventually become a rock star….
The cheerleader can become a software development engineer….
And the drama club devotee can get a Ph.D. in astrophysics.
Likewise, an 11-year-old can all of a sudden come up with the solution to world peace.
And a 96-year-old can all of a sudden decide to take up skydiving.
Anyone can do anything. Shades of grey are infinite. There are no limits or restrictions.
Take some time to celebrate the grey.