I love ballet. And Boxing. I drive and love my ancient old Isuzu Trooper, basically a beige box on wheels. And I drive and love my old bright blue PT Cruiser convertible. I am crazy careful, just as a precaution, about drinking alcohol. But every so often, once or twice a month, I savor and oh so enjoy a glass of bourbon. I have a deep rooted love of antiques, but when I paint in the studio, I paint bright, modern abstract paintings. I am a Christian who has found things to admire in most other faiths. In Virginia I was a radical left wing Democrat. Here in Vermont I am a radical right wing Democrat.
This doesn’t mean that I am hard to peg, or hard to understand. It does mean however, that if you plan to define me by one criteria, or one set of likes or actions, you’re going to be far more wrong than right.
I am not unusual in this. Frankly, I think most of us are that way.
And yet we seem to live in a world where we are defined, judged and abused because of one aspect of our life and culture. We see it in politics. We see it in religion. We see it in broken relationships and families. We find one aspect that we don’t like and we set about tearing down the person/group as if they had no redeeming social value.
i got a lot of this as a kid. My dad, who was not an inherently bad man at all, tended to latch onto one thing and paint you all over with that brush. If that one thing was good, then you were all good. If it was bad (and alas, I seemed to fall into that category when I was young.), you were all bad.
He grew out of it a bit as he got older. Even though it would still flare up from time to time, he got better at seeing people and groups more wholisticly. Still, a lot of damage had been done to a lot of people as a result.
I have several important people in my life who are fighting that battle, living among people who are treated as if they are awful, terrible people because of one thing here and there that they have done. The pain and brokeness they have felt because of this is immeasurable. Even if they manage to someday leave the situations, it will take them years to recover.
I know some of the people doing the battering. They are not inherently bad people. But they don’t have a way to say “I don’t like this thing you are doing.”. It always comes out “You are a worthless person.”
How did we get this way? I wrestle with that a lot. It’s not just individuals. It’s families. It’s politics (local and national). It’s churches and religions. Where did we lose the ability to see that people have value and feelings, even if they make a mistake here and there, or even if they believe differently than we do. When did tearing the other person down become a substitute for discussion?
And the shame of that is that it leaves it to the battered to dig out from under the barrage and preserve their self worth in the midst of being battered. And that’s dang near impossible.
Why do we feel so threatened that we go on the attack, a very personal and comprehensive attack, when someone thinks or feels differently. And why are we so blind to the damage we are doing?
I wish I had the answer. It might help me deal with it better. But I don’t.
I just know it’s so.
And I know this – changing that pattern takes work. It takes mindfulness. If we haven’t done the work, thought about it, practiced it, then we’ll fall into the pattern that is part of our national fabric, of tearing people down, and leaving an ever increasing pile of broken souls behind.
How do we break this pattern?
- We learn to listen. Not listen so we can jump in as soon as possible and tell the other person what we think or feel. This is not particularly easy, but it is oh so powerful in making another person feel they have value. And that in turn means they are generally kinder to us.
- Learn the Ying and Yang. None of us are as simple as others make us out to be, particularly those who batter us. Take time to learn the depth of a person and you begin to see them AS a person, a person of dimension, value, and often finding their way. And once we begin to see the whole person, we are a lot kinder. It’s human nature.
- Judge slowly. In our instant world, we want to make decisions about everything fast. Groups in today’s world are great at giving us sound byte news and memes, but not so good at looking at depth. Take time. Throw out the snapshots of a person and look at the full length movie. You might be surprisedd
- How you talk is often more important than what you say. Some of the most valuable conversations I have had have been with people who disagreed with me. But because they did not make the difference a definition of who and what I was, becaue they were kind in the conversation, I was able to take in what they said, and learn, and grow. The battering folks? All I learned was how to close down and survive the battering.
There are professionals who could give a lot more and likely better suggestions. But this has been on my mind for a while, and when things are on my mind, they tend to burble up here, mostly as poetry, and at times, like this.
Thanks for bearing with me. Now I am off to breakfast, an egg white omelet. With bacon.
Be well. Travel Wisely