Most of us can’t take a break from the pressures that seem to have invaded 2020. It’s an election year. It’s hard to remember that, because usually in election year, we feel overwhelmed by negative campaigns by now. We have difficulty in some of our gatherings, because emotions seem to be a tinder box resting precariously near explosives.
This year’s tinder box seems drier. The air we breath seems drier. People seem more irritable. And so many people are angry.
Angry about wearing a mask. Angry about not wearing a mask. Angry about the government doing too much or not enough. Angry about friends and neighbors doing too much or not enough.
You might not be able to take a break from the situation, but could you take a break from anger for a moment? Then, let’s string together even more moments and maybe lessen the anger across the community/ There is a place and time for the right sort of anger. When there is injustice in the world, a righteous anger that is productive, well-managed, engaging, influential, and respectful is appropriate.
The wrong sort of anger is ill-timed. It lashes out without thought of the repercussions around us. It’s selfish and power-driven. Anger often blurs our vision to any perspective but our own. We rationalize the behaviors in ourselves that we condemn in others. Anger misconstrues the context and truth, twisting inconvenience into persecution or tyranny.
It saddens me.
There are kids about to go to school in unfamiliar ways, who need us to give coping strategies instead of rants about everything that’s wrong with the system. (In case you haven’t realized it yet, there is no problem-free answer to the “how to do school” dilemma.) What if we set our anger aside and became role models for the adults of tomorrow by civilly expressing our opinions, showing those who differ from us we can listen and respect them, and talking through how to best deal with challenges ahead without letting our minds and tongues run wild?
It’s like we’re driving a car at full speed on a dusty road as we jabber the same things over and over—and people are listening and learning that might be the only way to drive in the future. We think we’re helping our families and friends by saying the same things over and over and louder and louder, then we wonder why they and we are so exhausted. Must of the time we’re exhausted is because we’re exhausting!
We can do better.
We must do better.]
We must be better.
Surprise yourself, and influence the people around you with compassion and kindness instead of anger. Need a suggestion? Here are a few rants I’ve heard or read in the past 24 hours—along with my suggestion for an un-angry alternative response.
Walmart is requiring masks. You know who is going to lose? The minimum-wage employees who have to serve as mask police of the store. It’s ridiculous. They don’t make enough money to have to deal with making people wear masks. Then be nice to those people—even the person who sits at the door and asks you to put the mask on you don’t want to wear. Be the exception in their day.
He/She [insert government official name] doesn’t have the right to tell me what to do, so none of these guidelines matter anyway. I’m not following any of it. I’m pretty sure these same people will chastise leaders and officials for doing “nothing” when their own interests are at stake. You don’t have to agree with your leaders, but you can also engage in respectful ways. Instead of spewing, listen, then share you own views with calm rationale. If you’re refusing to follow in guideline so-and-so gives out of spite, you’re (1) not making a point directly to the person, who is likely never going to know, and (2) not making your own decision even though that’s what you think you’re doing. Tossing it all aside only reveals you’re not willing to wrestle with the ramifications our choices make on others. Don’t give up your opportunity to consider and respect your community.
Those school officials are clueless. Don’t they realize…? I am sure there are exceptions, but in many cases, I am confident the people making the tough decisions regarding next steps for students, teachers, and staff indeed realize much more than you know. They are not making decisions flippantly. They are not trying to make parents’ lives difficult. They are not trying to put kids or staff in danger. They have likely thought through many “and then…” situations, projecting the possibilities.
Are there some leaders making decisions based on their own situations, kids’ preferences, and comfort level? Indeed. But there are many others who are waking up at night in a cold sweat as they consider the potential consequences of their decisions—a death, a bruised school reputation, a staff who is overstressed and undersupported, a community of poorly educated youth, the risks of putting groups of people together in a classroom and the risks they encounter when at home. Be an encouraging voice. Express your opinions, but acknowledge the decisions they’re making are difficult. When a parent lashes out, have a private conversation and listen to their concerns—not just the surface ones but the deeper ones. Be as reassuring as you can. When a student stresses out, help them process and cope. Give them tools instead of more baggage to carry with your anger and frustration. Write notes to teachers.
We’re all tired. We can’t take a break from it all, because it surrounds us. But we can take a breath in the middle of it. We all need it.