What is going on?
Seriously, what is going on? When did this happen? How did we get here? With two kids and one on the way, watching how the culture has shaped, and is shaping, the next generation is absolutely frightening.
This idea of trigger warnings and safe spaces is a direct result of too much digital saturation and not nearly enough interpersonal connection. We are losing, and maybe have already lost, our ability to effectively communicate. When did we get so scared of a different opinion? When did we get so afraid of a disagreement? When did fear force us to retreat from a different perspective?
Here’s a metaphor for you. You can’t see the whole Grand Canyon standing in one place. Getting feedback from a bunch of people standing with you isn’t going to help you see the whole thing either. Neither is shouting across it at the people on the other side. You have to be willing to move your feet and see it. Pictures can only go so far. Does that mean you forsake and forget your original perspective of the Grand Canyon altogether? Absolutely not. And no one would force you to do that. However, your appreciation of the Grand Canyon will grow as you see it from different perspectives even if you favor one perspective over another.
As I watch our culture continue to lose the ability to constructively disagree, I’m scrambling trying to figure out how to instill that ability in my own kids with so few positive examples available. It’s like keeping the art of tying a bow tie alive. An uphill battle, but a battle worth fighting.
So, here’s what I have figured out so far. I think it all boils down to two things. First, we have lost our poise. Some kids get a trophy and others don’t so parents lose their poise and cry out that it’s not fair. Someone posts something we don’t like so we lose our poise and unfriend them (Oh, the agony!). Someone says something we disagree with so we lose our poise, lash out, call them names, and run and hide.
Second, we are the most self-centered we have ever been. We have no interest in seeing things from someone else’s perspective. Perhaps this is because we are truly that narcissistic or perhaps we just have no idea how to do it. We are intellectually incapable of empathy. Either way, our own perspectives, and making sure everyone knows what that perspective is (thanks, Facebook), is all that matters.
Interestingly, do you know a place where you have to have the utmost poise and the least amount of self-centeredness to be most satisfied and effective? The workplace. Any workplace.
Customers of any kind are not going to give you a trigger warning, and there are no real safe spaces when dealing with people. Getting a bad review doesn’t come with a trigger warning. Nor does getting laid off, getting your budget cut, or getting embarrassed. If we don’t teach our kids how to be poised and reduce their self-centeredness, employers will send them home to their safe spaces without a trigger warning and tell them to stay there.
So, my commitment to society is to do my best to raise three young children who understand that they EARN a trophy, they aren’t entitled to one. Kids who understand that sometimes people think differently than they do, and that’s ok. Who understand that sometimes people are mean for no good reason, and we love them anyway. And who understand that having a positive attitude is more important and effective than being positive you’re always right.
I have failed already, and I’m sure I will fail again, but every day I will do my best to model this for my kids. And hopefully, one day, we will have a generation who is poised and just a bit less self-centered. Then, perhaps, talk of trigger warnings and safe spaces will just be ancient folklore.