The subject for today is civil discourse and the need thereof. Also, the power of prayer.
When the kids were little, they absolutely were not allowed to say they hated anyone. They could say “I strongly dislike” so-and-so, or “I’d prefer not to have broccoli for supper again.” But, no matter what, the “H” word was totally, always forbidden.
And here’s what happened next: Once, when our youngest was little, she apparently was very angry with me. However, knowing the house rules, she uttered not a word. Instead, she took a black, permanent marker and wrote IHM all over one of the bookcases. When questioned, it developed that technically she hadn’t said anything wrong; she just wrote IHM which, yeah, did happen to stand for I Hate Mom.
I hope I allowed more open discussion after that, but change is always hard. Many of my generation were raised under The Regime of Better Seen Than Heard, in the Kingdom of Don’t Talk Back. The kids probably learned more in high school debate class than I was able to teach them about the rules of proper disagreement. From the recent upsurge in vitriol in public places, some of my generation – now most of the ruling class—haven’t yet caught on to the need for and manner of discussing contentious matters while still respecting the other person or party. Note: I am not blaming any one person or party for the act of one in Tucson.But I do believe that, far too often, our recent culture sucks the very air of civility out of our lungs. That makes it easier to breathe in hatred and spew out more.
How do we combat this? As always, we start with ourselves. Others may have the answers for the public and political arena. Much of what we can do is simple common sense, but common sense is precisely what we seem to have forgotten too often. Who among us isn’t judgmental, doesn’t condemn others now and then? As for me, I’m staying away from where the stones are stored, ready for the casting. We all forget to practice the Golden Rule. We’re only human, after all.
But wait, aren’t we called to be more than merely earthlings? We say that we are Children of God! We tend to forget that so is the other person and – gasp — even those in that other political party. So how do we do our part to make the world just a little better place? How to make that do-unto-others bit a reality in our lives?
We can start by realizing that we are called to do something. Surely we can begin to notice how frequently we are negative and or judgmental, even if it’s only in our head, and work on that. Our mental attitude spills out into our words and actions.
We can start, first, by praying that God will help us. May we begin to be more loving to others, in spirit and action. Pray that we truly come to believe that we don’t have all the best answers alone. Only God is that wise. Remember that we believe in the power of prayer to change things, to change even we who remain in need of redemption.
We can start by praying that the other comes to know that he or she also is a child of God. In my years in social services, I always wanted to say those words to my hurting clients: God loves you. I have come to believe that much of the dis-ease in our world is the lack of most of us really believing that. So, pray for the other to know God’s love.
It is only when we truly respect each other as children of God that we can come to work together with open minds and open hearts. A side note: What might happen if every member of Political Party X prayed daily for members of Party Y? (Do I sense a Lenten resolution coming?)
Let us pray that then we may be able to freely discuss our differences and, even, the strong hateful feelings that remain. And may we do it without resorting to Magic Markers.