In these times when everybody seems to be shouting at somebody, and nobody is actually listening to anybody but themselves, perhaps it’s time for us all to remember to Be Kind, Use Nice Words, Be Gentle.
Each other is all we’ve got, regardless of race, religion, gender, politics or sexuality. We need to spend more time loving each other, and less time allowing ourselves to be a conduit for hatred and negativity.
Name calling, negative stereotyping based on the above categories, shouting matches over who’s right and wrong – those things are not loving. They are anti-loving. Don’t strengthen the anti-love. Don’t be a hater.
Here’s a good test: If your kids, or grand-kids, or students were talking the way you talk, saying the things you say, would you be pleased? Would you gently pull them aside and try to guide them to a better way? Would we put up with the sort of unkind language and behaviour in our kids that we so readily use ourselves? I would be devastated if I learned my son or daughters had been intentionally unkind or mean-spirited to another child.
And yet, I’m as guilty as anyone else when it comes to resorting to indignant retorts and quick-tap replies, sending them unthinkingly without blinking, into the ether. If you spend enough time online (which I do – more than enough) that bad behaviour tends to rub off on you, gradually — unnoticed. Until you realise too late that you’re hurting people and driving wedges into relationships.
But there’s a better way. It’s a harder way, because it requires relearning some stuff we learned as kids that we put down somewhere along the way.
(I know I’m getting a little preachy here, but I rarely do, so allow me this once. I will be the first to admit that this preaching arises from an acute awareness of my own need to work on this stuff in myself).
How do we re-learn kindness, embrace encouragement, and allow gentleness to govern our interactions? Well, for starters, we can look beyond our screens, turn away from the hatred and the bile – we cannot fight hate with hate – and we can fill our own small places with love, enlarging the world where we stand, where we live and breathe, rather than waging an online war where everyone ends up defeated.
I’m not saying don’t debate issues online. By all means have your opinion, stand by it, defend it if you must. The open discussion of the Real Big Things which affect our planet and its people is important. But please, Be Kind – Use Nice Words – Be Gentle. Love.
Well, what about love? It’s not just a word we say, Love is how we act: Love is helping those we disagree with without giving them the disclaimer that we think they’re wrong; Love is getting to know somebody for who they are rather than what they say on Facebook, or which political party they align with, or who shares their bed; Love is listening to somebody with a different experience and actually hearing their hurts and their humanity, doing for ‘the least of these’ and ‘loving thy neighbour’ (those are from the bible, yo – words of JC, no less). Love is not fluffy and sugar-coated – Love is meat and bones, and lungs burning, feet weary, and a cup of cool water.
This kind of Love is one of the highest callings we have as humans. And this Loving happens in the real world, in the flesh and blood and sweat and tears of everyday life – this kind of Loving rarely happens from behind a computer screen. This Loving doesn’t exist in the effortless, angry, digital scrawling which is poisoning us every day. This kind of loving is SO brutally hard because it requires us to be uncomfortable, face-to-face, defenseless. This kind of Loving requires putting others before ourselves, and quite frankly, I find that terrifying, because so often all I think about is me. But I am trying to Be Kind, to use Nice Words, and Be Gentle. I suppose (and hope) I will be until the end of my days – but hey, we all need a reminder sometimes.
How about you?