So here we are. We have encouraged our children to speak up and “use their words.” Well kudos my friends, that is exactly what they are doing and unfortunately, they are not pretty. But today, I have no words. Well, actually I do, but putting them down on paper has proven quite a massive undertaking. I’m not sure why, but this week has been nothing short of mentally debilitating and my parental load-bearing beams have been all but demolished. The train pulled into the rumination station for the nine thousand twenty-seventh day in a row at approximately 2:36am. Enter the deluge of deep thoughts and crippling fear. How in the hell am I supposed to teach my littles how to navigate a world spinning out of control and emerge healthy individuals on the other side? Did students (and parents...ugh) at my local high school really spew hateful racist comments at an opposing team, was the story embellished to garner attention, or were both sides guilty of misconduct? I’ve read hundreds, if not thousands of heated comments from passionate individuals claiming, “The truth will come out.” And the only retort running circles in my mind like a dog chasing it’s tail is this...does it really matter? I would like to believe the issue will be thoroughly investigated and addressed appropriately, but here’s the thing - maybe it will and maybe it won’t. At the end of the day, the only purpose that will serve is to vindicate one side. In my humble opinion, validation of position should never be the end goal. If it’s validation you seek, you will find it one way or another and likely stop at nothing to do so. May I be so bold as to claim the facts of the case are actually somewhat irrelevant, or better stated, less significant than other factors at play? And please do not assume I am mitigating culpability and ramifications for those involved. There must be a fitting punishment and acknowledgement of wrong-doing. But what if, instead of playing the blame game we simply shifted our focus inward? What an amazing opportunity we have...to start a conversation, to practice the art of forgiveness and empathy, to address the value of not just listening, but hearing. What a blessing to be presented with the possibility of truly affecting change - on even the tiniest scale - within this little town we call home. My town has been and will be better than this. It starts at home and we are talking for sure.
I am heart-sick and emotionally burdened by the actions and words of our youth and not simply this week alone. I wish I could say I am surprised by the events that unfolded, but I’m not a fan of duplicity. It is no wonder they are confused and misguided, blind sheep led astray by the slightest enticement. We are raising them in a world of conflicting ideas, blinding contradictions and blatant hypocrisies. How are they to make sense of messages that war amongst themselves? We tell them, “Silence is golden,” but also, “If you see something, say something.” We clutter the airwaves and elevate rappers who use racial slurs and epitaphs as if they were conjunctions but are dismayed when they parrot the very same phrases and terms to each other. We tell them to have hope and try to make the world a better place but with the same breath tell them all is lost and the world is in dire straits because we elected a president we don’t like. We emphasize gun control and that violence is never the answer and then the media sensationalizes the taking of innocent lives and floods them with images of violence in video games during Monday Night Football. As a society, we have done little to solidify in them a firm foundation. We have not fostered a safe and secure environment in which to thrive, but rather, have hurled them out into the great unknown with an empty tool box and a pat on the back.
We live in a society that has decided it is more important to gently redirect our children and give them alternatives to their pursuits rather than overtly tell them “no.” There is, however, on occasion, an absolute right or wrong way to act and behave and yet we fail to recognize it. Unfortunately, as they grow and struggle to become fully functioning adults, they will hear “no” quite often and while I strongly support not giving up on your dreams, the reality is that sometimes the answer truly is no and they must learn to accept it and move forward. We have regrettably bred in them an inability to function in these instances. We have failed to convey to them the value of the bigger picture, that there are moments when even teachers become students and sometimes having the last word will only widen, rather than bridge the gap between compassion and contempt, kindness and cruelty, consciousness and ignorance, humility and pride.
My husband and I have always believed our primary focus should be on building self-esteem in our children. The shoulds and should nots, behavioral and societal issues we address with them are secondary. When they make an unwise decision, we certainly rebuke them, but the focus is on building in them a framework from which to make their own well-informed decisions. We strive to empower them to test the narratives being fed to them, critically think for themselves, and rest on what they know and believe to be true. I think the same general principles apply here. The missing piece is discernment. We have failed to teach them the art of discernment so they can correctly apply the so-called wisdom we impart. Without discernment, wisdom is a violin with no strings. What beautiful music we might make, yet we continually fall one note short of a symphony! It is only in knowing your audience and being able to clearly determine the climate of a situation that you can correctly discern the wisdom to apply.
I've heard it said that when someone else is speaking we spend the first 17 seconds formulating our response rather than actually listening. We see it in Facebook posts. A post is made and within two seconds there are 20 comments being drawn up in response. Where is the listening or more accurately, hearing taking place? We immediately seek to defend, challenge or be heard when perhaps we haven’t actually received the message at all. We don’t give ourselves enough time to “hear” each other and consequently, misunderstanding and ultimately, polarization follows. It is not enough to simply shut your mouth and claim to listen. Real change occurs when we hear and further, validate each other. The sad reality is that we have been conditioned to prove our point. What we lose in so doing is the ability to see beyond the words to the intended meaning or at the very least, the worldview from which it comes - its inception, the filter and experiences that shaped it. The new mantra is, “Hurt people hurt people.” I hear it often. I see it reposted almost daily. We say it, yet we don’t actually believe it, because we continue to talk over each other in an effort to be right, to be justified. We are failing miserably, but I cannot simply sit back and accept defeat. The future of my children hinges on it. In fact, demands it.
Alas, what the world needs now is love. True, but I think what it needs more urgently is understanding. Because in this day and age, it goes something like this, “I love you and you love me, but I disagree with you and let me tell you why you’re wrong.”
Me being the self-loather that I am, when someone takes issue with me, I immediately assume it is my fault. It is definitely a weakness, but I also see it as a strength, because at the end of the day, I would do anything to make it right - not to be right, but to find a resolution and some understanding as to how I hurt the other person so that it does not continue to happen. It forces me to look inward and question the validity of the accusation, to consider my actions and how they affect others. It may or may not hold water but at the very least, it warrants and begins a discussion wherein I have the unique privilege of delving into the mind of another, what makes him/her tick and this is what I love most about life - introspection. It defines who I am, affirms my character, and directs every step I take. I believe so many of us get hung up in the acknowledgement of our shortcomings. Simply engaging in a conversation that addresses your actions and encourages you to reflect upon how they affect others does not mean you are conceding defeat (although I don’t love that word here). It simply means you are open to understanding the position of another in a way that could positively affect change. Although I think our human nature would disagree, if I engage in a healthy debate, I’m not necessarily trying to convince the other person that my way is better, because maybe it’s not. When I’m wrong, I say I’m wrong (yep, veiled Dirty Dancing reference). The point is, if both people approach the conversation from the same angle - understanding - everybody wins. Ultimately, you will both address the problem sincerely in an effort to make it better. At the very least, you are privy to a different perspective and will likely be a better person for it. Growth does not come in stagnancy. We are ever-changing, ever-evolving human beings, with boundless potential to do extraordinary things. In my mind, the purpose and meaning of life is relationship - with each other, with ourselves, and with a higher power, whatever name you choose to give it. I like to call mine Jesus, Lover of My Soul and Healer of My Heart.
I’m not quite sure how to end this post, so I’ll just say this...use your words is not a bad starting point, but how you use them will take you from conception to fruition and somewhere in the middle maturity, growth, understanding, (insert literally any positive word here) will rear its beautiful head. Maybe it’s time we give our littles a break and take a turn on the buddy bench ourselves. Pride comes before the fall. Perhaps it is time to do a safety check, skip the tightrope for a day and instead, make sure our feet are firmly planted. Maybe it is time to steady our resolve, polish our listening skills, practice understanding, and allow for the possibility that perchance we do not know it all.
This is neither here nor there, but it suddenly occurred to me after I commented on a post on a certain page that I had opened myself up to scrutiny. While I was proud that I didn’t get attacked as many on said page do, I realized that should someone choose to “investigate” my beliefs further, it would serve me well to revisit my own page and ensure all my ducks line up. Silly, but self-reflection is in order. Are my posts consistent? Do they all reflect the same ideology? Do they align with my initial comment or are they a myriad of contradictions? Do I change and waiver in my approach to fit a narrative? To gain a friend? To be liked or accepted? Or simply to avoid upsetting others? Just a thought. I digress, just shut up already and let someone else have the floor for a minute!