On Things We Learned in the Sandbox (Or While Eating Rubber Cement)

From the glasses I look through, this week wasn’t about politics, it was about humanity.

If you’re wondering why people are still upset about the election, regardless of who you voted (or didn’t vote for), it’s likely because you’re coming from a different starting point. We all make decisions from our own needs, desires and perspectives.

A friend used the word “psychological triggers” to explain the turmoil. I couldn’t agree more — everything I’ve read and seen calls to mind values, sayings and words of wisdom instilled in many of us since kindergarten. Many important lessons feel as though they’ve been violated, twisted, cherry-picked, etc. as everyone comes to terms with the state of the country. Maybe I’m naive, but I can’t help thinking about kids. In red state or blue, I’m almost positive they’ve heard the same guidelines and sentiment I’ve carried with me since childhood.

This goldenish rule was shattered:

— Bystanders are as culpable as bullies if they stand by without taking action. —

If true, filling out a bubble for someone to take actions on one’s behalf is an endorsement of that person for both good behavior and bad.

I have serious concerns about this statement:

— It’s not only my privilege but my duty as an American citizen to vote. —

This always felt like a call to action for my generation with an emphasis on proactivity. This week I’ve seen just as many saying “we’ll see” and “let’s hope.” Comments like these come off as complacency with an emphasis on reactivity. This feels like hypocrisy.

This seems like an excuse:

— “Actions speak louder than words.” —

I get the sentiment, and I know campaign promises are filled with more words than actions, but it’s just not entirely true. Words do matter and dictate action. When you exchange words with someone from an entirely different point of view, the words you choose set the tone for the exchange. They determine whether you have a healthy conversation or the urge to knock someone’s teeth out. When you say hurtful things to people, they have the right to speak back and people have the right to be angry and scared. Further, when you pick words out of a message that are meaningful in a sentence, statement, etc. while ignoring the many other words that sandwich them, be aware other people are also picking other words out of the same sentence, statement, etc. Words that might feel comforting to you in your situation feel like terror to people that are in a completely different one.

Actions shouldn’t speak louder than words at the expense of thoughtfulness. As much as this is true, intention and heart should speak louder than vocabulary level — even if someone’s words aren’t perfect, that doesn’t mean they aren’t trying.

I recently learned the definition of the word gaslighting. It’s a psychological term that means you’re manipulated into “doubting [your] own memory, perception, and sanity” (thank you, Wikipedia). I’m willing to bet if we could all instantly morph into our 7-year-old selves, many of us would feel gaslighted by this week.

Originally on Facebook, Nov. 11, 2016

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