A Mom’s Age-Old Advice
Last month I had the joyful experience of seeing my second daughter graduate from college, with a job offer in hand. My oldest is a married, employed college graduate and my youngest just finished his freshman year of college, so I’m pretty much finished with “raising children.” Imagine my delight when one of them told me recently that I’m pretty good at this parenting thing. (Apparently they have forgotten or at least forgiven a few of my earlier disastrous efforts). Immediately, I started fantasizing about how different the world might be if I had been given the opportunity to parent some other people (a certain presidential candidate comes to mind.) Just imagine if I could go back in time and share a few of my life principles:
- Don’t call people names. This is basic. I don’t care if they “deserve” it. Our society seems to have reached a new low where name-calling is acceptable in all sorts of venues, from online posts and comments to television and radio. Set an example for others by showing everyone respect.
- Don’t use any language that contributes to the ugliness in the world. I realize that cursing is utterly commonplace these days, but if you think about what most curse words mean, they are either scatological, racist, or misogynistic, and are clearly intended to hurt and insult. I’m sure many people would call me old-fashioned and naïve, but I believe language matters. (Also, don’t judge me on this, I came by it naturally. My mother was once offended when a nurse used the word “poop” in her presence.)
- Don’t make fun of people because of their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, weight, looks, or even their clothes or their hair. You can disagree with people’s choices and behavior, but mocking and disrespect are unkind and wrong, especially if it’s about something a person can’t change.
- Have a little humility. Be willing to listen to other people’s point of view –most issues are more complicated than you realize. Before reacting, make sure you have all the facts. For example, if you are pro-choice, do you know how many women are pressured into having abortions, and exactly how abortion procedures are performed? If you don’t like transgender people, do you know anything about gender dysphoria? Do you know the rates of murder and suicide among transgender people? Be willing to learn something new. We all have to live together, and a little understanding can go a long way.
These are just a few of my most basic beliefs and values. As a Catholic Christian, I believe that every human being is created in the Imago Dei (the image of God) and therefore has inherent value. This means everyone. It doesn’t matter if it’s the multi-pierced, tattooed kid who waits on you at Starbucks, the liberal atheist co-worker, the cranky conservative neighbor, the disabled, the prisoner, the elderly nursing home patient, or the unborn. Every human being is worthy of being treated with dignity and respect, including those we disagree with. Of course, our family, like everyone else’s, doesn’t always live up to these principles, but I’m not going to quit trying. We can make the world a better place if we do.
A version of this piece appeared in the Miami Herald on June 14, 2016.