My Happy Birthday to Mr. Rogers will run on Friday this week. This morning, the day after Super Tuesday, I feel compelled to post this one instead.
Fear is running rampant in our country today. I hear “I’m afraid” all around me; I hear it on social media and street corners; I hear it from podiums and daises on both “sides of the aisle.” That’s troubling, of course.
I hear “I’m angry,” too. But the psychotherapist in me has seen too often how anger can be a cover for the fear that is so socially unacceptable, certainly among men. In these cases, you go just a bit deeper and the anger that’s on the surface gives way quickly to the fear that lies beneath.
More troubling to me are the “you” centered defenses, grounded in personal attacks. “You, get out.” “You are to blame.” “You are ….” (fill in the blank with some gratuitous ad hominem). Sometimes it’s “He is….” or a “They are …” but in every case it’s anything but first person singular.
Bullies never respond to “you statements,” whether it’s on the playground (ask any assistant principal) or on the campaign trail . Narcissists too. And the candidate “whose name cannot be spoken” is surely both. Certifiably. Read the DSM 5.
What holds my interest more, are the people — the voters — who resonate with these messages that play to their fear. Those are the people, I believe, we must listen to for their fear is just as painful as the fear you and I experience. Fear is fear; and it hurts.
We may couch our fear in different words. We may cover it over with the buzz that anger can bring. But appreciate that both sides believe they are “right.” Both sides feel justified in their stance. Both sides feel “superior.” And shouting at each other is not working.
If we can stop shouting, take a breath, and listen to those with whom we disagree, perhaps we will also be modeling the behavior we cherish. It’s hard. And it’s a little scary. I know.
Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
For me, what that means is that if I want to be heard, I need first to hear others.
If I want to be respected for my views, I need first to show respect for the views of others, however distasteful. Respect is only that; it is not agreement.
If I want to be treated with compassion, I need to treat others with compassion.
If I want to live in a world of peace, I must live my life in a peaceable fashion.
I must OWN my part in the healing that we need. If want the shouting to stop, I must stop shouting.
“Be the change you want to see in the world,” Mahatma Gandhi said. He never said it would be easy.
How about you? What is the change you want to see in the world today?
My thanks to Joan Z Rough, whose recent blog post stimulated me to write this one.