Have you ever been pierced by a comment so mean you were stunned into silence?
Recently, a friend’s Facebook post inquired “Can we all just agree that everyone who votes for [a particular political candidate who I happen to have just voted for] should be neutered?”
“Wow,” I thought.
This coming from a fellow mom in whom I had invested support, empathy and forgiveness on multiple occasions.
I wholeheartedly respect the thought others put into voting, whether or not I share their views. We’re all entitled to our opinions, but this was different. My friend expressed that my fellow voters and I are unworthy of being parents and blatantly compared us to animals.
I suppose I could have eased the pain by firing a harsh thought or judgmental response back at her. Gossiping was another feasible reaction.
But I know better.
As a mom of three, I spend my days teaching my boys to forgive, be kind and think of others. I show them how to empathize and be patient; I teach them how to respect differences, lovingly deal with conflict and stand up for what is right.
And I practice what I preach.
Though I can’t help but feel angry sometimes, I choose not to feed those feelings with hateful thoughts, which would justify lashing out at others.
So I allowed myself to feel how much that post truly hurt my heart and invested some time wondering “How can I handle this in the most forgiving way possible, while possibly opening her heart and mind to realizing the ripple effect of posting something so incredibly mean?”
I know a Facebook post is small in the scope of life, but I also know that beliefs are powerful in motivating the actions, which shape our world. When left unchecked, hateful propaganda grows into hateful actions; It’s simple cause and effect that has been proven through history.
So I chose to write her a private note expressing how her post made me feel. I affirmed our friendship, but I encouraged her to reflect next time before she posts something so harsh. I also expressed concern that she was possibly in a lot of pain to feel a need to express something so hateful.
I thought that since she had reason to respect me as a mother, if I had the courage to share my feelings, she’d potentially rethink her willingness to resort to personal attacks based on political views. Perhaps I could be a face to the generalization she’d made with that post, which could cause her to have more empathy for others.
No such luck.
Instead, she defended her post because she thought it was “hilarious” and asserted that I needed to grow thicker skin, then added a scathing personal attack about my character, based on who I voted for (as if the neutered comment wasn’t enough).
It was worth a try.
Clearly, I do not have an effective voice in that relationship.
I do have a voice here on the Mom’s blog though.
And though I hope I’m preaching to the choir, I have some thoughts I need to express:
Even when we strongly disagree with someone’s views, mocking them is not an appropriate response. No matter how angry we are, making disparaging remarks is still wrong. Being afraid is not a justification for fueling destructive stereotypes. Broken hearts do not entitle us to dehumanize people by comparing them to animals. However intensely we are in pain for any reason, it is still completely unacceptable to dismiss the inherent worth of our peers. And for the record, “jokes” that humiliate and degrade entire groups of people are actually a form of bullying, which is never funny.
There is no excuse for planting seeds of hate. Wrong is wrong; Mean is mean; Dangerous is dangerous; It’s that simple.
If we want a safer world for our children, we need to stop hurting and desensitizing others with our words and actions. We need to stop tempting people to retaliate with more violent communications and actions.
I know I’m not alone in being affected by this type of hateful propaganda and insensitive interaction, due to how common it is in our society.
The good news is: Love is straight-up the most powerful force in the universe.
So I’d like to invite you to team up with me for an opportunity to be a little more intentional in how we spread love throughout the world, as a response to negativity. I believe that if we unite as moms, we can make a powerful impact in shaping a more sensitive, compassionate society.
1. Take a deep breath. This can help prevent you from reacting in a negative way, which will escalate into an argument and create more negativity.
2. Walk away. Do not empower mean-spirited conversations with your presence for the sake of being “polite.”
3. Say something. If you can do it in a loving, centered way, it may be beneficial to question the thinking of a negative person in your life. Even if they don’t respond well, at least they have something new to consider.
4. Empathize. As mean-spirited as people can seem, they’re usually coming from a place of their own pain or ignorance, and they’re probably doing what they believe is right. Trying to understand where they are coming from takes patience, but it’s the only way to create a meaningful (and possibly transformational) connection with them.
5. Forgive. Be the hero and let go of grudges; it takes humility, but it is truly the only way to have the inner peace we all need.
6. Be the change you want to see. We all need more examples of people who operate from a place of integrity, respect and kindness.
7. Build bridges. Invite someone whose political views you disagree with to coffee; try to find five things you have in common. The more we focus on our common humanity, the better.
8. Give generously. Do something kind for a difficult person in your life, expecting nothing in return. Deep down, the harshest people have the most broken spirits and truly need the most love.
9. Affirm the best in people. Overlook someone’s flaws and make sure they know the strengths you see in them; the world is starving for kindness.
10. Use social media as a force of good. Plant seeds of inspiration, wisdom and kindness whenever you can. Love can be louder than hatred.
I know these ideas seem simple and may not show immediate positive results! But they are powerful when used over time, especially when we all do them at the same time.
How do you spread love to the difficult people in your daily life? How do you think we can turn the tide to create a more compassionate society? We’re all in this together!