I was reminded why I left Facebook in October after perusing the site minutes after the presidential election. The mudslinging was immediate and it didn’t matter who had been checked off on the ballot hours earlier. The name calling, derogatory pictures, gestures, and threats of economic doom creeped across the aisle. More people were “unfriended” on Facebook in the past four weeks leading up to this election because of bipartisan bullying at its best.
Regardless if declared as a Democrat, Republican, or an advocate for Roseanne Barr, the linguistic languishing was a prime example of the types of behavior addressed on school playgrounds across our nation.
We wonder why our youth is “going to hell in a hand basket” and fear how young people just ain’t got no respect.
Well, let me tell you something if it isn’t already clear.
We better start taking a hard look in the mirror.
I am all for “freedom of speech” and exercising one’s right to an opinion. If done respectfully. There’s a way to say what you feel, express what you think, without slamming someone else or threatening another person for believing differently.
There are “Four Agreements” hanging up in my classroom that 28 fifth-graders could teach us in order to communicate more effectively.
The “Four Agreements” are:
1.) Mutual Respect
2.) Attentive Listening
3.) The “Right to Pass”
4.) No “Put Downs”
I would think #1, “Mutual Respect” is easy to understand but just in case you’re confused, it’s really the “Golden Rule,” or as many of our mothers drilled into our heads, “Treat others the way you want to be treated.”
#2, “Attentive Listening” is a tough one for us as we always have what’s on our mind, what we want to share and the story of our lives playing so loudly that we can’t wait to share out point of view. It’s difficult to take a deep breath and really try to “seek to understand” someone else first, really listen with an open heart to what they are saying and try to reflect on what’s being heard, rather than to immediately channel our inner-lawyer and attempt to create and win the debate at hand.
I know I feared my candidate of choice would not be elected but I wanted to consider the opinions of others I share this planet with, or more specifically this nation and I had to realize as a mother of two children, a teacher, a member of my community, that I still had much responsibility as a citizen regardless of the outcome.
In fact, this is what I posted on my Facebook status following election results:
Please remember adults… we are modeling to our children how to respond to either celebration or disappointment at the expense of “the other side.” We are the ones – through words and behavior – that are continuing to SHOW children HOW to be divided. Why not challenge ourselves – with our words, etc. – on what it LOOKS like to either “win” humbly or “lose” with grace? More importantly, let’s not be bullies and trash each other or tear each other down… But consider the meaning of this poster as it applies to all of us.
#3 of our agreements is “The Right to Pass.” I think this one applies to not adding insult to injury by negatively commenting on already insensitive posts. Not adding fuel to the fire. But instead, be a light and find a positive way to reach out. I want to remind the naysayers that taking on the persona of Eeyore and putting those hands on the hips and saying, “watch and you wait and see” won’t move us forward, either. Remember, it is not the President alone that is responsible for creating a nation indivisible and united. We are a part of the equation.
As a whole, we seem to have more problems with #4. “No “put downs.” We could learn so much from the simplicity of this simple agreement. Don Miguel Ruiz wrote a book called The Four Agreements (they are not the same as the ones in my class) but he writes in his book about keeping an “Impeccable Word.” Easy to say but for some, not so easy to do. I’m wondering, can we at least try?
We all have A LOT of work to do and none of us are perfect. I do believe, however, that we are all doing the best we can and that changes on any given day. It would be a great start if we could just begin by asking the simple question, “Is what I’m about to say going to help or hurt?” (and this could be help or hurt the person, or help or hurt the ability for someone to understand my point of view, or help or hurt to show I understand what someone means)
Again, it’s not about not sharing your opinion or having one for that matter – God, we all need an opinion and educated opinions are the best. It is the way in which we share them.
Jewel sang a line in one of her songs that I believe to be the truth, “in the end, only kindness matters.”