Finger-pointing. Helplessness. Hissy-fits. Name-calling. And unicorns. We can’t forget the unicorns.
No, I’m not talking about toddlers, adolescents, or teenagers. I’m referring to the attitudes and behaviors of too many “adults” across America.
Is it just me, or does it seem almost impossible to have a constructive conversation about a controversial topic?
Condemnation, disrespect, and yelling have replaced conversation, discussion, and listening.
Unicorn’s desires and demands precede unity and the greater good.
No two people live in an identical world, so each person has a slightly different perspective on the perfect world. If everyone is hellbent in making others see and believe what they do, “uncivil wars” are inevitable.
These skirmishes have the potential to wear away at the unity that once defined the “United” States.
Perhaps I’m overreacting, but I don’t think I am. The following are some of the thoughts I’ve rumbled around in my head these past few years. I hope they cause us all to rethink what we write and what we say.
Read also: 5 Beliefs that Build Suckituptitude.
What Happened to Civility?
To be civil is to be polite and courteous.
Quite the opposite of the verbal battles and character assassinations going on online, on TV, and even in person.
Politeness and courtesy require you to put the feelings of others ahead of your own. Not easy to do if you believe your needs are more important than others. It’s even harder when nobody feels heard and everyone feels misunderstood.
How will we learn and grow if we refuse to listen and understand?
Why have people become so bitter toward one another? What is it that’s created such divides between fellow citizens and human beings?
Why do people judge others’ entire character, simply because they disagree about one or two things?
Before you absolve yourself from such behaviors…
Do you think of someone differently if they voted for Trump versus Clinton?
What about if they are pro or anti-vaccine? Pro-life or pro-choice?
Or, what if they’re atheist, Christian, or Muslim, or Buddhist, or another religion?
People are so quick to judge others. However, the richest conversations, and the greatest learning, comes through meaningful conversations with those you don’t agree with.
Well, to clarify…you learn from those conversations if your goal is to understand the other person, rather than prove to him or her that you are right and they are wrong.
When you make the effort to understand someone else, two crazy things happen. First, you realize that you’re more alike than different. Second, you sometimes realize that your beliefs are wrong!
So, why do so many of us forego considerate conversation, and instead engage in “uncivil war?”
Lack of Curiosity
Let me start with an example…
I don’t believe in taking or recommending the flu shot.
If you disagree with me, what was the first thing that popped into your mind after reading that sentence?
Did you feel compelled to correct me? Did you mutter “what an idiot” under your breath?
Do you want to call me irresponsible?
And just to be fair, if I’d have said I believe in getting flu shots, would those of you who are against them have had similar responses as above?
That’s how most people respond to opposing views today.
Or…instead of wanting to criticize and condemn me, did you feel curious? Did you instead want to ask why I believe you don’t need a flu shot?
If you wondered why I believe what I believe, congratulations! You got curious!
Most people react to opposing views one of two ways.
- They push their opinions down others’ throats, even when the other person didn’t ask for it.
- They silence the other person by unfriending, avoiding, or ostracizing him or her.
Millennials have the hardest time with this, which could make it harder for future generations to learn from one another. Many colleges are only making this worse, too.
People aren’t curious about why others believe what they believe. They’re certain they’re right, or they’re afraid of being wrong. They don’t get the fact that most of the beliefs we have are just that…beliefs. Not facts or the truth. Even those who live in Hollywood.
Try it this week. Find three people who hold an opposing belief to yours. Ask them:
What personal experiences, education, or other insights led you to your decision (and listen, and ask more questions)?
If you keep them talking for ten minutes, without weighing in with what you believe, I can almost guarantee you’ll learn something. And you might even appreciate their perspective.
At what age does it become “okay” to blatantly disrespect other people?
Is it okay for an elementary school child to call her teacher an idiot? Or to throw a tantrum because he doesn’t want to learn about math?
Is it okay for a high school kid to tell a teacher to piss off and blame the teacher for failing his test, even though he did nothing to prepare for it?
What if your child told her coach that she sucked at her job, or she was fat and ugly?
What if your child spoke that way to you?
If you don’t have any kids, use your imagination.
In response to my first question: “At what age is it okay to disrespect those in positions of authority,” I believe it’s never okay, no matter your age or who it is you’re referring to. And it’s especially not okay to disrespect those in a position of authority.
Yet adults do that everyday. Many celebrities are paid to do it.
Instead of being critical of people in authority over you and envious of their position, be happy you’re not responsible for everything they have to do. Instead of piling on complaints, thank them for what they do. Overwhelm them with encouragement and appreciation!
– Joyce Meyer
Like the palms of a weightlifter, we’ve developed a callus for disrespect. It doesn’t make us uncomfortable anymore, unless the disrespect is directed toward ourselves.
As long as it’s not about us, it’s acceptable. In fact, you might even find it funny.
However, if left unaddressed, the acceptance of disrespect will slowly infect the fabric of what it means to be “civil” in a modern civilization.
Once we feel that the disrespectful name-calling, memes, and derogatory remarks are no big deal, it’ll only be a matter of time before the aggression is taken up a notch. That’s a frightening thought.
That’s not to say we shouldn’t question the decisions of others, especially those in government.
I was brought up to question authority, and thank God for that.
The danger is when we move from questioning them, with our limited understanding of what they actually do everyday, to criticizing, condemning, demeaning, and insulting them.
Yes, I’m referring to the President, whoever he or she is at any given time, the police, your boss at work, and any other human being…
Most of us have no comprehension of the decisions they make everyday, and the reasoning behind them. Without understanding the whole story, we have no right to judge and condemn them.
Meanwhile, we make mistakes of our own, and squander opportunities to make the world better all the time. Fortunately, most of us don’t live under a spotlight for people to point them out.
We justify the choices we make ourselves, knowing the whole story (or making one up in our minds). Yet, we judge the decisions of others while seeing just a sliver of the story.
Remind the believers to submit to the government and its officers. They should be obedient, always ready to do what is good. They must not slander anyone and must avoid quarreling. Instead, they should be gentle and show true humility to everyone.
– The Apostle Paul, Titus 3:1-2
I know…many who read this are thinking, “Freedom of speech Tom!”
I get it. You can say whatever you want.
But as a full-grown adult, if you say whatever you want, no matter how demeaning or insulting or vulgar it may be, I see it as pretty selfish.
You disregard the eyes and ears that read and hear what you say, and the impact it has on them. Especially kids and young adults.
Your own soul is nourished when you are kind; it is destroyed when you are cruel.
– King Solomon
The way late-night TV, tabloids, celebrities, and everyday Joes and Janes talk about others nowadays is anything but civil.
Finding humor in attacking another’s character is closer to spreading hate than it is to sharing a harmless joke.
Taking responsibility is like speaking a second language. The more you use it, the more natural it feels.
Unfortunately, the language of responsibility is rarely used today. You don’t hear phrases like, “It was my fault. I’ll take responsibility for that. I own it. It’s on me.”
Instead, you hear the language of blame.
“I’m overweight because the food industry…”
“I’m broke because the credit card company…”
“My marriage is in shambles because my spouse…”
“I’m late with my project because my kids…”
“I’m failing in my network marketing business because my upline/downline…
“I don’t get enough sleep because Jimmy Fallon…”
“My life is hard because my parents…”
“I have anxiety because the President…”
People avoid responsibility at all costs. It’s uncomfortable. It feels better to lift the burden of blame and place it on someone else than carry it yourself.
If blame doesn’t work in a marriage, where two people are committed and in love with one another, it certainly won’t work in a society.
The more you blame others, the more you confine yourself to the prison of victimhood.
Responsibility is kind of like weight training. At first, it feels uncomfortable and heavy. But the more you practice taking responsibility, the more comfortable it becomes.
As you handle little responsibilities, you’re awarded with greater responsibilities and greater influence.
You eventually realize that you have far greater control of the direction of your life than you might otherwise believe. That’s powerful!
Rather than feeling like your future is dependent on the wind in your tiny sailboat, you feel like an ocean liner controlling your route, and handling even the biggest waves from the fiercest storms.
But of even more importance than your future, you’ll set a much better example for your kids.
Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.
– John F. Kennedy
The world doesn’t revolve around you and your needs.
You are entitled only to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And happiness, success, and the greatest experiences in life will always evade those who pass their responsibility onto others.
Banish blame from your vocabulary and set and example for those around you, especially those who are young and impressionable.
What do you think?
Perhaps it’s my “Minnesota Nice” radar, or that I can’t stand when people who bully or gossip about others…I just don’t understand why one person would insult, demean, or verbally attack another person…celebrity, co-worker, social media personality, or your next-door neighbor.
None of us is perfect. So, even if someone else does screw up, the last thing you should do is berate them, make fun of them, or condemn them. Your time…my time is coming. The rocks we throw have a funny way of bouncing back when that time comes.
Uncivil wars cause all sorts of collateral damage. Aim to understand, and you might realize there’s no need for the battle.