What is it about us human beings that it takes tragedies like the shootings in Tucson to make us examine our ways of thinking and behaving? Most of us, from the time we are little, are encouraged by the important adults in our lives to monitor the way we act and to pay close attention to the words that we speak. But while we may heed that guidance when we are growing up, many times we get to adulthood and we tend to forget those basic lessons, especially when we find ourselves on opposite sides of an issue.
Instead of debating an issue, we personalize our arguments and attack, not a position, but an individual, somebody like us. We even use confrontational language to describe what we are doing: we have a”battle of wills” or a “war of words” and even “hostile debates”. We get so caught up in winning that we fail to recognize the damage we are doing to others–and ourselves. I know I have certainly been guilty of such thoughts and actions in my life and I am not at all proud of it.
It’s not just our political debates that need to be toned down; it’s all the ways we interact with each other on a daily basis. (Road rage, anyone? Courtesy in the checkout line?Our heightened sensitivity to being ‘disrepected’?) As adults, young people are looking to us not just to tell them how to act but to show them how to act by the way we live our own lives. We all could certainly find ways to be less “violent” in our lives. There are lots of ways we hurt and cripple others with our words and deeds that we can change.It would certainly show we had learned our lessons well if we can be positive examples of resolving differences as fellow human beings, not opponents on a battlefield.