A Lesson in Unity From the Playground


The election we have been waiting for (most likely because we just wanted the political ads to stop) has finally come to a close.  The results have thrilled some folks, scared others, and probably just confused the rest.  Regardless of which category you woke up in to today, you most likely noticed how ugly the whole process was.  There are people all over espousing wildly conflicting perspectives.  The vote is divided neatly with Red being Rural and Blue being Metro America.  Just like 2 children in a disagreement.  Based on the noise flying around the last year, I think that is a pretty good analogy.

Experiment time!

Let’s kick things off with a little experiment.

  1. Go to Facebook and look up a political post (right or left – it doesn’t matter)… Go ahead.  Right now.  I will wait.
  2. Count how many times there was a negative, derogatory or demeaning comment or implication about the opposing view in the post / article / comments.
  3. If it was less than 5, you hit Internet gold!

You see, even though we “communicate” more than ever we are more divided than ever.  We talk, talk, talk, but do we listen?  What is the purpose of our talking?  More often that not, we talk for self-affirmation.  That is, we say things that our like minded friends will agree with so we feel better about ourselves.  “Yay we won, we sure showed those idiots.”  or “Four years of pain and suffering, because people are idiots.”  Self-affirmation in communication is not communicating.  Believe it or not, it is bullying.  Yes, you read the right.  You are being a bully when you post or say derogatory comments about people that do not agree with you.  You are building your self-esteem at the expense of others.  That is the definition of bullying.  It is disrespectful, demeaning and destructive.  You will not persuade others with that kind of dialog.  But, then again, if it is self-affirmation you are after, that was never your intent was it?  If you are seeking to persuade, you will find that Aristotle did not include insults in his rules of Apologetics for a reason.

Teaching our Children to do Better or Learning from our Children.

Both major parties made a hash of their rhetoric, insulting and demeaning their opponents and their opponents followers, apparently forgetting all along, that they would be the leader of those  Americans too.  They were good examples of what not to do.  I have said it before, and I will say it again:  You must do what you want your children to learn.   So, if we want our children to obey the playground rules, we need to as well.  In case you forgot what they are, here is a refresher. 

  1. Respect those in Authority.  Whether it is YOUR candidate or THEIR candidate that wins, after the election they are OUR President-elect.  Every President, especially ones I disagree with, will always be referred to with their honorarium: President Soandsuch. Don’t resort to the lazy, familiarization of the media that likes to refer them only by their last name like they are part of some sports team.  You don’t call your teacher by their first name like they are one of the gang and you certainly shouldn’t treat those officials in the civic sphere that way either.
  2. Listen to others. If they have a different perspective, have you listened?  I mean truly listened to why their perspective is different.  Do you seek to understand what experiences caused them to think that way?  They may not even be able to articulate why they feel the way they do, but they are people and chances are they have reasons to believe like they do.  Have you put yourself in their shoes?  Have you walked a mile in them?  Johnny might have a valid reason why he needs that ball now and not later.  You have 2 ears and 1 mouth.  Listen twice as much as you talk.
  3. Don’t insult people. Yes, you may actually be right, and they may really have a lower IQ than you, but that does not give you the right to demean them because you were blessed with more intelligence.  Apparently, you haven’t figured out that greater gifts mean more responsibility to help others, not belittle them.  What kid would ever get away with insulting or demeaning kids who are less intelligent?  But, here is a newsflash – chances are that kid you thought was so dull, is really gifted, and you missed it completely.  BONUS:  A corollary to #2.  For every defect in others you identify, find 2 in yourself (trust me, they are there for all of us).
  4. Don’t Exclude. If your little circle looks just like you, talks just like you and thinks like you, then you are probably a little insecure. Expand your world.  Go ahead.  You might find that you didn’t know as much you thought you did AND you might discover some REALLY GREAT people that you would have otherwise missed out on.  So, don’t horde the slide to your little clique of friends.  Those other kids would certainly enjoy it, and you will benefit from your time with them.
  5. Apologize.  When you mess up, fess up.  Then do your best to make it like it never happened.  Own your mistakes.  Learn from them.  Become a better person.  Help those you hurt. If you knocked Billy off of the swing, apologize and make sure he is okay.  Get him the help he needs, if he is not.  Learn not to run past the swing when kids are getting on.
  6. Accept Differences.  We seem to tolerate anything these days but someone that disagrees with us.  We are all different and that is part of what makes life together great.  That doesn’t mean we have to agree.  It also doesn’t mean that if you disagree with me that you are somehow phobic or a bigot.  Yes, it is possible to disagree with someone different than you and the disagreement has nothing to do with fear or prejudice.  It just means you think differently.  At the same time, some ideas are genuinely bad ideas.  If you want to jump off the top of the slide, that is a bad idea.  If I feel compelled to tell you, as a friend that I think your choice is dangerous, that doesn’t mean I don’t like you, respect you or that I am afraid of different ideas.  It just means I care and wish better for you.  In the end, it is your choice, I respect that, but you should also respect that my disagreement and warning is out of compassion, and not fear.  Likewise, I hope that when it is my turn to have a dumb idea (because we all do) you will feel like you can tell me so.  I might not agree, but I won’t be offended.  That is what sharing the playground is all about.
  7. Learn to Laugh.  Seriously, we all need to lighten up and stop taking ourselves so seriously.  We need to learn to laugh at ourselves.  When we trip on the sidewalk and nothing is there, that is kind of funny.  Enjoy it.  Let others enjoy it too.  We cannot be so self-absorbed to believe that every thought and action that we participate in is a blessing to human history.  We need to get over ourselves and enjoy life.  If what we have is so good, it ought to show by the joy and peace on our face.  If you look like you just downed a bottle of prune juice, then you might want to reconsider whether you are cut out for the playground police.  Perhaps you should spend more time on the slide, the swing, or my favorite (which is really hard to find these days) the merry-go-round, and less time telling others how to enjoy them.   

  Pass the Baton…

Another generation is watching us.  They are looking to see how we handle these differences between us.  We have a choice to make.  We can be hypocrites and break all of the playground rules or we can do what we tell them to do.  They look like they are having a lot of fun so the rules are clearly working.  For my part,  I will enjoy my time while it is my time, and I will play by the playground rules.  I look forward to sharing the playground with you all and when my time is done, I look forward to watching the youngsters enjoy it (of course they will have all of the cool, new stuff that is “safe” to play with).  That is entirely different blog post…

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