*Originally published in 2013. Even truer today.
I was working on an article yesterday about getting better behavior from children without yelling. It seemed fitting that I should be writing about using positive reinforcement to garner positive outcomes on the 50th anniversary of MLK's "I have a dream" speech. After all, Mr. King changed the world by placing his bets on positive reinforcement.
Love over hate.
Nonviolent protests over violent protests.
Kind words over unkind words.
We tell our children to be nice to one another. We ask them to share and to treat others the way that we would want to be treated. We teach them that hitting is wrong, that unkind words hurt and that actions have consequences. We try to instill a strong sense of self into them so that as they grow older, they will be able to stand tall against all of life's complications. We share our beliefs and values with our children, but tell them that we'll love them no matter what.
Unfortunately, we don't always practice what we preach. I've read so many articles lately and stumbled into forums where opposing sides of an argument continue to spew vitriol at one another. I've turned on the television and watched footage of wars in the name of religion and protests for equality turn violent.
I've never been able to wrap around it. Isn't the work that we're doing with our children every day essentially negated the moment that they witness one of these hypocritical acts? It's downright confusing to them; this idea that they are told to abide by an entirely different set of life rules.
I think about the world that my sons will inherit a lot.
I think about Christians fighting the GLBTQ community. I think about the Neo Feminists fighting Men. I think about the Pro-Life fighting the Pro-Choice. The working moms fighting the stay at home moms. The breastfeeding moms fighting the formula feeding moms.The Republicans fighting the Democrats. North Korea fighting South Korea. The Skullys and Mulders fighting the government for covering up proof of aliens (cue X Files music). The vegetarians waging war against the meat eaters.
There sure is a lot of fighting going on all of the time.
At some point, you have to wonder...to what end? When will enough be enough? How far do we have to go before everyone can live peacefully? Such a simple idea, continuously convoluted by hatred and bigotry and self-righteousness.
Horrible, awful things are said in the heat of the moment. Emotions spill over and violence erupts. The weapons come out. Sometimes, people begin fighting about one issue and then go off somewhere into left field and they forget the point of the original argument. I see this happen every day. Both sides walk away feeling as if nothing was resolved and they're right; it wasn't. You can't tell someone that what they believe is stupid or wrong or "ungodly." In the same ways that you can't tell someone who to love or what to be when they grow up or how many kids to have or what country to live in. You just can't. Because these are matters of the heart and they can't be changed through hate.
"We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline.We must not allow our creative protests to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force...I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up, live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal." - MLK
"No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite." -Nelson Mandela
Be the example. Set the bar high. The generations to come depend on it.