The interstate south on I-35 going towards Purcell was brutal. From the Norman spur, we tried to butt our way in, then the slower than molasses traffic went to one lane. A red Honda Civic (with a Texas plate, I might add) cut right in front of me. Did the driver not see the “merge now” sign like I did? Profanity flew from my mouth like kids leaving school on the last day, and hand gestures were aplenty. Suddenly, a thought occurred to me. This person was just like me; trying to get somewhere, stuck in slow moving traffic, and frustrated. How I responded was not sympathetic, kind, nor acceptable, but it was a common reaction.
This election year our news is running over with issues that pit one political party against the other, and causes a frenzy of insult throwing on social media. Instead of supporting a party’s ideas, or criticizing the opposite party’s objectives, people have taken to insulting the people personally. Terms like “moron”, “idiot”, and mean-spirited names abound. Perhaps because there is a bit of anonymity in Facebook, Twitter, and other social media, people feel comfortable posting whatever they want (whether it be true or not) with little or no repercussions. We post what we are thinking without filtering or without thinking about how it might make someone else feel. And worse, people form opinions based off what they read on Facebook, not by what they read in the papers or see on the news (they also form opinions about the poster as well; I know I do). It’s just like sitting in your car in heavy traffic. You may never see that driver who cut you off again so why not cuss him out? Or write that insulting post?
In this “selfie” culture, we have become self-loving, self-indulged, self-serving, and self-absorbed. We interact with our phones and mobile devices (those miraculous gadgets that are so handy yet so detrimental) and have forgotten how to show interest in someone else instead of having our wants met (go to any restaurant, and you will find at least one table where everyone is looking at their phones). We speak our opinions as truths and expect everyone to agree or else they are wrong. Some people make such posts just to create online mayhem. We fill our children’s minds with sweet utterings of how they are special and the most important thing, but we don’t teach them how to set goals or humbleness (perhaps because we lack it ourselves). We don’t spend enough time with face to face conversations, and we definitely don’t spend enough time praying to God or reading the Bible. (Reading verses posted on FaceBook or Instagram do not count as reading the Bible.) We criticize, blame, and point fingers. But do we offer praise to someone or have workable solutions to our problems?
My husband gave me a fantastic book for my birthday. He said he saw The Art of Grace and thought of me (that is super sweet!). The main point author Sarah L Kaufman makes in this powerful piece of non-fiction is that the art of being graceful isn’t just physical, but it is also putting others before yourself, making others comfortable around you. Or, as Jesus said, “Love one another as I love you” (the 11th commandment, John 13:34,35).
It has taken me 29 (or more) years to realize that not everyone grew up with the same rules or morals as I did. In my home as a child, the word “fart” was never used (I still hate that word to this day), but other people use it without a second thought. Some use it as a familiar nickname (you old fart). With this realization, I also understand that is it okay to disagree with people. It is okay if something is appropriate for their family and not for ours. I also realized I don’t have to respond every time someone tweets or posts something that is opposite of my views.
I have also realized that people appreciate a little kindness. A smile or a pleasant greeting goes a long way. I will try to remember to let that car trying to merge in so his drive can go a little smoother. And I will do so with a smile and a friendly wave of the hand (wit all five fingers). Maybe we can overcome negativity and hatefulness with hope and friendliness. Perhaps this is the start of a Kindness Revolution.