or are they mutually inclusive ?
A few weeks ago Ellen Degeneres sat next to George W. Bush at a football game. The response that occurred on social media resulted in Degeneres defending/explaining the situation, which comes at a time when the world's divisiveness is palpable.
In her words (paraphrasing), she is friends with people who share different beliefs than she does - to be kind means being kind to everyone.
Bravo for that. But, I believe it was more than kindness that allowed for this act and this statement.
What I found so interesting about this is two-fold.
Firstly, has our society become so polarized that sitting next to someone with a different set of beliefs is considered absurd? Do we always need to agree?
A valuable aspect of education in life comes from conversing with individuals who propose different ideas than our own.
What do we wish to glean from each other if our views and opinions are the same?
Ellen's response to be kind to everyone was applauded.
Of course, be kind to everyone. When did this notion of being considerate deserve a round of applause? There have always been mean individuals; is it just that now we have named them - we call them out? We call out the "mean girls" who turn into mean women. We watch videos online of people being crude and rude. We make those who are being mean - famous.
Yet, we applaud kindness and try to instill compassion in our children.
We, as parents, try to catch our child's altruistic behavior as if they are potty training and need positive reinforcement. Are we placing gold stickers on foreheads when you allow the person with two items in her grocery cart to go before your two-weeks worth of shopping? Where has civility gone?
Being courteous has flown out the window in 140 character increments.
So, we talk and tweet and post about the injustice of exclusion.
Social media is flooded with comments of parents teaching their children to be friendly, to be inclusive. Again - yes, of course! Don't be afraid to invite the person sitting alone, to include the outsider, to extend yourself beyond the "typical" group of friends. Put yourself in the shoes of the person you are not inviting and go beyond the framework of fear. Take a chance to learn something new from someone different.
And this is where I may lose some of you.
Are we teaching our children to be kind to a fault? Shouldn't we be teaching resiliency just as much as we are stressing kindness?
Kindness is fantastic; it is universal; it is a common thread within our society (that, unfortunately, is not that common anymore). But resiliency is different. Resiliency means that you have the grit and determination to stand up when knocked down, to bounce back, to be tough, to dare to be original. When something doesn't go as planned for my/your child (and it will happen), how are we teaching them to react? What do we tell them when their opinion is the minority? What do we tell them when they are excluded, or passed over, or ignored?
Let's take it old school for a moment.
Back in the 90's, I didn't know about a few of the weekend parties until Monday morning at school. Mostly because we didn't document our every move and then post about it for everyone to see. Even now, my husband will say, remember that party in 10th grade -- no, dear -- I don't. I wasn't there.
And, here's the best part - what I didn't know didn't hurt me. (honestly)
But now! Now, the kids can't go to a party, get into a college, score an internship, or buy a pumpkin spice latte without the barrage of posed posts. The kids who are missing out know their exclusion the moment it happens, and they feel it with every chat - snapped in real-time. As much as you want them included and invited to everything - it rarely happens. (and it stings - both for the child and the parent)
Resilience is "the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness"(Oxford).
This is the time when the metal meets the road, sparks fly, and you are holding your tongue from flaring swear words that require slamming the windows shut, so the neighbors don't hear. Parenting can be ugly and real and heartbreaking. Parenting is waiting for that panicked phone call from college. Parenting is seeing your child walk off the bus with shoulders depressed into the chest and trying to (gently) pry the information out of them.
Encouraging resiliency is necessary when it comes to friends, grades, jobs, parties; any setback that can occur in life requires you to be resilient. Having friends who share different opinions involves resilience, strength of knowing that your opinion does not have to be shared. But how do we teach it? (no, really, how do we teach it?) This isn't an I-know-the-answer post.
I am trying to figure this out just as much as everyone else - so let's unravel it together.
From what I can gather, resiliency is an in-the-moment skill. It's explained in clichés that life isn't fair; not everyone gets in (is accepted, makes the team - you get the idea.); you tried your best. It is imploring the importance of try-again.
Resiliency is YOU boosting your child up with the power of KINDNESS, so they better understand the importance of being tough. It is you encouraging the strength of individuality, which will result in your child respecting others' opinions. It is (stay with me) teaching your children to be kind to themselves so they can be kind to others.
Kindness is "the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate"(Oxford).
If we expand both definitions - can we teach one without the other?
In conjunction, the two intermix to help define self-worth, self-acceptance. Together, these two words aid in developing strength of character.
Developing resiliency allows for your child to understand that they will not always be the center of attention - and that is ok.
That their opinion is one of many and will not (should not) match the views of everyone around them - and that is ok.
That not every party needs them in attendance - and that is ok.
That it is more than ok to be sitting next to someone who has beliefs opposite of yours - and when someone questions your motive or asks you to defend yourself - you are resilient enough to say -- because I am kind.
Love and Luck,
I hope you read this for what it is - a deeper look at kindness in our society and how - even though we preach kindness to our children - sometimes, being kind also requires strength and resiliency. I'm ALL for kindness. I'm ALL for resiliency.
What are your thoughts ?