“Hate, it has caused a lot of problems in the world, but has not solved one yet.”
One of the things I think about while raising my two-year-old and four-year-old boys is how to teach them to respect the world around them and everyone in it. I want to ensure that my children do not end up a bully on the playground or grow up to become an intolerant person who discriminates against others. It occurred to me early on that it was more important that they learn to control their actions than their thoughts. I saw the world around me and understood that even the most politically correct, hypersensitive people that I knew still displayed forms of bigotry.
We, as a society, have united to express that certain forms of bigotry are unacceptable, yet how many people have I heard say “I hate the church because they are intolerant” or “smokers get what they deserve” or “I shop at Target so I don’t have to see people in their pajamas at Walmart”. Certainly, one would never accept a person saying, “I prefer Target because gay people shop at Walmart” but, these days, we pick and choose and there is still some trendy bigotry that we, as a society, are fine with. There is a blatant bigotry against people who lack a formal education, despite the fact that all people are born uneducated, just to name one of the many acceptable discriminations.
What chance do I have of teaching my children love and tolerance when even I am not always capable of it? In a world of ever-changing fads, how can I teach my child that despite what “kick” society is on, their actions should promote peace whenever possible? How do I teach them that truly accepting others means loving people who don’t share the same beliefs as them? How do I teach my children that a fat person who is wearing their pajamas at Walmart deserves respect just the same as a person with a different sexual orientation than them? That a catholic priest, a disabled vet, a homeless alcoholic, a mom who is publicly breastfeeding, as well as a mother using her WIC checks to purchase formula all deserve to be treated with respect and without judgment. When I see so much intolerance and bigotry in the name of tolerance, I wonder how I can show them that it’s not our beliefs that define us, but our actions.
If my children grow up believing in a religion or lifestyle that limits their condoning of the beliefs and lifestyles of others, that is their choice. If they grow up with beliefs that conflict with mine, I pray I show by example that they are still loved and accepted through my actions toward them. Regardless of what they believe, I hope they will respect the rights of others and more than anything consider people’s intention. I want to teach them to avoid hypersensitivity whenever possible, realizing that it ultimately leads to hate. I want them to know they are defined not by how well they get along with like-minded people but by how they co-exist with those whose thoughts and actions they disagree with.
Honestly, I can’t keep up with what’s politically correct and every other day I find out a word in my vocabulary defines me as prejudice against some group of people who I can assure you I have no ill will toward. It’s hard to complete a sentence without offending somebody, so to expect that my children will grow up without being seen as closed-minded in some way is unlikely, but I need to remember that that is not my focus.
Hate is the problem. It is at the root of all bigotry, discrimination and prejudice. When we hate people for what they do, or even hate people for not accepting who we are, we have brought a poison into the world.
I urge you mothers of young children to worry less about your children appearing socially gracious and teach them how to properly react when presented with an opposing view. Let’s not be consumed with making people think alike and let’s learn how to coexist even when others are “wrong”.
When I see parents teach their children to mistreat another child because they believe that child is racist or homophobic and therefore deserve it, I begin to see what the world is made of. It really doesn’t matter what side of the fence you’re on, it only matters if you’re throwing rocks. The golden rule “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is a great way of teaching our children how to handle a politically incorrect or prejudiced friend. Prejudice is everywhere… YOU are prejudice, trust me, we all have an area of wrong thinking where we are convinced that someone else’s actions or beliefs makes it totally okay for us to judge them and think of them as less than equal.
I’m not high in the sky. There are unacceptable things in the world that we need to make harsh judgments against, but I have seen too many times where a person gets cornered in a social situation and asked their belief on an issue that they are not actively involved in, and when they don’t agree with the social trend they are called a bigot and that, my friends, is pure bigotry.
Don’t worry about what people think, worry less about what they say, and focus on what they do. I don’t care if you’re a right-wing activist marching in front of an abortion clinic or a gung-ho liberal picketing against a gun show, it’s not what you believe that matters, it’s how you treat the world and mostly how you treat the people you cannot find common ground with.
I won’t try to teach my children to understand everyone’s point of view or to tread delicately around the emotions of everyone in their path. I will teach them to stand for what they believe, to co-exist with those they disagree with, to make enemies of few, to let it go when they can, to stand strong when they have to, and to always be humane.
“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.”
– Maya Angelou