Walk Out vs. Walk Up

The National School Walkout Day was this week, a day that was intended to be partly a memorial for the victims of the Parkland shooting and partly a day for teenage activism against gun violence.  I saw many different videos and descriptions of how various schools chose to participate.  I also heard about districts that threatened suspension for any student who did walk out.  Some schools had very organized events supported by administration, while others were more of a protest handled strictly by students.  As usual, there were very opposing views of what they day was all about and how it should be handled.

Likewise, I saw many social media posts urging the students to INSTEAD “Walk Up”, meaning walk up to someone who typically sits alone at the lunch table and invite them to sit with you, or walk up to someone and just say something nice, or anything along those lines.  The idea being that many of the shooters in these mass shootings have been loners who are angry because they have been excluded and are trying to get even.  So if we all make more of an effort to be more inclusive, then perhaps that will be a preventative measure.  Even without factoring in the shootings, focusing on being more kind and inclusive is always a good thing, so I like the idea.

What I don’t understand is why it has to be one OR the other.  What’s wrong with the students protesting peacefully in order to have their concerns and opinions heard AND making a conscious effort to be more inclusive and kind?  The two things don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

Unfortunately, that seems to be the case with so many issues today though, where so many people focus on one particular facet of what they believe the solution should be and don’t understand that one thing alone is not going to solve the problem.  Gun violence is a perfect example.  Stricter gun control is one option that seems to be successful in many other countries, which many people support.  But there are plenty of people who believe the answer is more guns.  And there are those who think we need to focus on bringing attention and more resources to mental health issues.  Then there is the devaluing of human life because of the exposure to violence and trauma either in real life or in video games, television, and movies that many think is the biggest contributing factor.

The problem is that there is not necessarily one thing we can blame and that needs to be changed.  We don’t have to focus on guns OR mental health, for example.  It all needs to be addressed.  But when people retreat to their corners and only want to focus on the one issue they think is most important or the only solution, then we will not make as much progress with this issue as we need to.  Or any others for that matter.  People need to be more open-minded and more willing to consider ALL of the aspects of this or any other issue that needs to be addressed and make it a priority to set aside our differences and work together to make some significant progress.  If we all continue to “stick to our guns” regardless of the evidence to the contrary and only focus on one aspect of the problem, we will go nowhere.

Patterns of Behavior

A person’s true colors are apparent by the patterns of behavior they establish.  These can be patterns of positive or negative behaviors.  Unfortunately, we sometimes focus more on the patterns of negative behaviors that people establish for themselves.  How many people do you know that when you think of them, you think about how they are always complaining about something or how they are always late everywhere they go. Or maybe they tend to interrupt others a lot or are deceitful or dishonest.  Perhaps they put their own needs first the majority of the time or they are quick to judge others.  The list goes on and on.

You might know other people who bring to mind positive patterns of behavior like being a good listener, always helping others out, always having a positive attitude, and always giving others the benefit of the doubt.  Or perhaps they are silly and fun a good part of the time.  There are plenty of other qualities I could list here.  People with these attributes usually have numerous friends and family members who look forward to spending time with them, and it is easy to overlook certain things about them that are not so positive such as being a little forgetful or not so great at replying to emails. If they occasionally exhibit a behavior that is unbecoming or they make a poor decision, it is easy to forgive them because it only happens once in a while and probably has a reasonable explanation.

No one is perfect, but it is much more difficult to overlook negative behaviors and poor decisions for people who exhibit patterns of negative behaviors on a regular basis. It becomes easier and easier to keep lumping everything together and form an overall negative impression of that person, to question the person’s intentions, to not give them the benefit of the doubt, to start looking for negative behaviors where there aren’t any, and to want to distance yourself from them.  Not only is this true in relationships on general, but it appears to be very evident in this election on both sides.  The hatred for both candidates is palpable, and neither one of them does themselves any favors by some of the choices they have made or the way in which they behave on a regular basis.

I find it interesting that people who tend to behave negatively themselves tend to look for and point out negative behaviors in others, are quick to deflect the attention off of themselves by drawing attention to the negativity of others, and will even accuse others of doing the very things they themselves do on a regular basis.  It’s like they don’t see the connection between the two, or perhaps they are unwilling to see or acknowledge that they do the same things, so there are double standards. They are usually quick to play the victim too.

We all have a choice every day as to how we go about our lives. We can have a positive influence on those around us and try to establish positive patterns of behavior such as being respectful, trustworthy, honest, helpful, giving, open-minded, and make decisions based on values and integrity.  Or we can behave in a way that establishes negative patterns of behavior and negatively impact those around us, which makes it very difficult for anyone else to give us the benefit of the doubt or a chance to redeem ourselves.  Which will you choose?

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Maintaining Middle Ground

With some people, there doesn’t ever seem to be a middle ground.  Everything is black or white, all or nothing.  Either you’re on their side or completely against them.  I definitely know more than one person who fits this description, and it makes communication quite difficult sometimes.

One of the things that is difficult is trying to get a point across without them over-interpreting things as I sometimes call it, is the fact that they tend to interpret things as being one extreme or the other.  And unfortunately, the worst possible interpretation seems to be the one of choice most of the time.   Continue reading

Being Open-Minded

I believe there are multiple parts to being open-minded.  The first is not being judgmental, which encompasses avoiding putting labels on people or putting them down because they are different.  The second would be giving people the benefit of the doubt and not being so quick to assume what their intensions might be or what they are going to say or do.  A third is to not be so set in your ways and how you view the world around you.

Unfortunately, I think we live in a society that breeds people being judgmental.  Many people are too quick to form opinions of people and situations without really getting to know the person or the facts pertaining to the situation.  We’re quick to not only form an opinion but also express it, and sometimes we are being overly critical.  We should be embracing people’s differences rather than making people feel they need to fit a certain mold.  There are plenty of people I know who could stand to be a little (or a lot) less critical of others when maybe that person made a poor choice that didn’t really harm anyone.

Giving people the benefit of the doubt is difficult for many people, especially if they are more of a pessimist and tend to look for negatives.  Assuming the worst in people is a hard mentality to break, particularly if you have had numerous negative experiences with others and have formed some very negative opinions of particular people, a particular group of people (the opposite sex, for example), people in general, or the world in general.  Even when that’s not the case though, it is sometimes difficult to not make a negative assumption of what someone is trying to say or do.  When you expect people to let you down or do the wrong thing, that is often what happens.  It is always better to listen and give people a chance.  This is something I am not always good at with a few particular people in my life who have disappointed me previously.  Being more optimistic and open-minded isn’t all there is to it in every circumstance, but it might help the relationship or situation from getting worse.

The people I know who are quick to form opinions are sometimes the same people who are reluctant to change their opinions once they are formed, even after they have learned new information.  Perhaps they are stubborn and/or don’t like to admit they are wrong.  I think this is a contributing factor to being set in your ways.  Another part of it is understanding that we were all raised differently with different experiences, values (or lack of, in some cases), expectations of our roles and how people should treat each other, and so on.  Many people have a certain expectation of how their marriage will be, based on what their parents’ marriage was like.  If your spouse was raised in a very different environment, then there are bound to be obstacles to overcome, many of which may have to do with expectations of each other that are different.  If you are set in your ways and don’t realize that your parents’ viewpoints or the way you were raised aren’t the only way, then you may have difficulty making compromises or working as a team to navigate through life together.  If you are not open to trying new things or doing things differently than you have in the past, that can make things difficult as well.

The bottom line is that the more open-minded we can be about people, situations, expectations, ways of doing things, other people’s opinions, the other side of the story, the way people look, the way people think and feel, and so many other things, the better chance we have of getting along and making a positive impact to the world around us.

open minded

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