“Where do you want me? Under the macramé plant hanger? Really? Didn’t avocado green shag go out in the seventies? All right, all right, I get it! Now is the not the time to be snarky. Just tell me where to go.”
I’ve been called on the carpet.
Recently, I published political opinion on social media. Although posting often, I tend to swerve away from politics for what will shortly become apparent.
Summed up, I catalogued a list of adjectives I felt portrayed one of our politicians.
I’ll own up to the fact that it was less than complementary. However, in my defense, I chose only clearly defined descriptors, veering away from words which criticized physical traits, instead targeting behaviors – which can be transformed. So, as example, I didn’t use the expression “stupid”; a derogatory, extremely judgmental, non-defensible term for someone lacking intelligence. Rather, opting for “ignorant,” meaning uneducated; a state of being that can be remedied if so chosen. Selecting watchfully, I picked words based on measurable, modifiable behaviors. As a mentor of mine said, “Judge the verb, not the noun.”
Most of the responses — as expected — echoed my sentiment; after all, they’re my “friends.” A few folks disagreed. For the most part, they were respectful (kinda…) I countered, in the interest of opening dialog (well, truth be told, also to defend my position).
I expected dissent. What I didn’t foresee was a very simple observation from a long-term reader of this column who stated, “aren’t you the guy who believes in kindness first?”
Ouch. Don’t you hate having principles?
As much as I disliked having to admit it, he might be correct.
How could I defend my post while still remaining true to my belief? At first blush, the two appeared at loggerheads.
It’s easy to be a person of integrity when everyone shares your values; the test comes when challenged logically and respectfully. His post triggered no small amount of consternation, causing me to question, “Is it unkind to point out someone’s flaws?”
Big picture, I don’t think so. If someone you love is careening out of control toward an unhealthful outcome, I argue it is unkind to NOT address those behaviors. Therefore, what makes for kindness is not silent, blanket acceptance of another’s actions; rather approaching those concerns with respect, built on a bedrock of well-intention.
One re-emerging theme on which I’ve written over the years is, “before opening your mouth, know clearly your intention.” THAT is where I fell short. I’m not sure what I was trying to do with that post. Was I venting, trying to change minds, looking for support?
Yes, there were components of all three, but as I’ve had some time to really consider my actions, it boils down to fear.
I cannot remember being as frightened as I am these days.
I recall “drop and cover” drills, the Watts and Detroit riots, students shot on campuses, mutually assured destruction, police and protestors in full battle outside the 1968 Chicago convention. But, until recently, I steadfastly believed they were moving into our past. No, I’m not naïve, we are still too far from Nirvana. Yet, it seemed like we were inching oh so slowly in that direction.
Martin Luther King’s famous quote was derived from Theodore Parker, a Unitarian minister, calling for the abolition of slavery. In 1853 he wrote,
“We cannot understand the moral Universe. The arc is a long one, and our eyes reach but a little way; we cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; but we can divine it by conscience, and we surely know that it bends toward justice.”
My sad truth is I fear we are retreating. That fear incites anger as a defense. The commonality between fear and anger is they seek security. I was less kind than I would prefer to be, feeling robbed in part of my safety and security. Therefore, my intention was unclear and muddled the conversation.
I don’t take back the sentiment. Enough boorish, harmful behavior already! This is not normal.
Yet, we must remember we’re human, doing the best we know how to do.
Maybe, just maybe, if we keep that intention front and center when talking, we could possibly help each other fix this mess.
About the author: Scott “Q” Marcus is a THINspirational speaker and author. Since losing 70 pounds over 23 years ago, he conducts speeches, workshops, and presentations. He also coaches individuals and consults with companies on how to implement and handle change. He can be reached at www.ThisTimeIMeanIt.com or 707.442.6243.