Dear Sensible Students,
For most, September marks the beginning of Back to School Season. Back to busy mornings and nightly homework. Back to learning. Back to building relationships with teachers and friends. Back to increased stress, mid-terms and finals. For many, it’s the end to the mental staycation of summertime. Unfortunately, it’s not always the start of commonsense and passed tests. We have to go back to basics. Let’s use Alyssa Douglas as an example.
Who is Alyssa Douglas, you ask? She is the 16-year-old girl who, for whatever reason, decided to tweet an appeal for the assassination of our President last night. Yes, right after President Obama delivered his DNC nomination acceptance speech, this young lady tweeted an asinine statement that may very well change her life (I’m not going to dignify the remark by reposting it here). Who knows if she truly intended to make a threat against our President’s life or if she was just “playing around” in an attempt to gain retweets and possibly become a trending topic. What matters most at this point is how we- as elders, teachers, and lifelong learners- respond to such foolishness. Here’s what we must learn:
1. Words have power. Joking or not, your words are powerful- especially in this day and age. We live in a technologically advanced, social media infested society. Between sound bytes, retweets, YouTube, and Instagram, everything we say and do can go viral within a few clicks of our fingertips. Our words are loaded pistols; they have the power to either protect, or intimidate, inflict pain, or kill. Let’s use our words to uplift and encourage- not tear down and curse. As Abraham Lincoln once said,
“Better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt.” ~Abraham Lincoln
Alyssa Douglas’s Twitter account is no longer public (or it has been deactivated) but her words are still etched in the memory of millions in the Twiterverse. You can delete a tweet or terminate your account, but you can’t undo the damage. It’s like trying to unring a bell, unblow a bubble, or unshoot a gun… once it’s out there, you can’t take it back. Done deal. Not only might you hurt someone’s feelings, you’ll damage your reputation (and/or your future) in the process..
2. Actions have consequences. While we Americans can enjoy our right to freedom of speech, that right is waived when it comes to threatening someone else’s life. We can’t just let folks off the hook when their actions violate boundaries. Dismissing someone for their destructive decisions is a detriment to their well-being and possibly even our own. I don’t know if she ever saw the respectful reply I tweeted her and who knows if Alyssa’s disturbing tweet will lead to her arrest and/or her being questioned by the Secret Service. But I pray that someone close to Alyssa is courageous enough to compassionately confront her hostility and hold her accountable for her remarks. Otherwise, how will she ever learn from her mistakes?
“For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” ~Sir Isaac Newton
You reap what you sow, people. Sow wisely.
3. It takes a village to raise a child. All too often, many of life’s students don’t graduate to a higher learning of wisdom because no one took the time to correct their ignorance. While many will say “leave her alone. She’s only 16.”, few will take the time to challenge the recklessness of a girl who is just 2 years away from becoming legal. To dismiss her ill-conceived remark as just childish is an error or our society’s behalf. Sure, her parents are ultimately responsible for her upbringing, but they probably aren’t following her on social media forums to see what type of trouble she may be getting herself into (or perhaps, they just don’t care).
When children don’t think any one cares, they begin not to care what anyone thinks. If we, as a society, don’t confront the careless acts of others, then we can’t complain when the offender goes on to serve a life of criminal behavior (that you, dear taxpayer, will ultimately pay for). I wonder how many felons would have chosen a different path in life if someone had invested in their potential rather than devalued their worth…? I wonder how many lives would have been spared from the hands of gun violence if someone reached out to the perpetrator when they first noticed their abnormal behavior…? And I wonder what the crime statistics would be (especially in urban areas) if each one of us reached out to teach someone else that there is a better, more excellent way of life outside of drugs, promiscuity, bullying, violence, etc.
“Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.” ~Margaret Mead
4. Love your enemies. I know, this is far easier said than done. The seemingly “rational” thing to do is to attack via word or deed. But hatred begets hatred. While it saddened me to read Alyssa’s infuriating tweet, it also sickened me to read the hate-filled replies that others posted. Belittling a fool is not a catalyst for change. You can’t successfully fight hate with hate… the very thing that you are fighting against is what you ultimately become. Why perpetuate a cycle of hostility? It won’t solve a thing. In less than 65 characters, Alyssa gave the world a huge glimpse into her character (which, upon further investigation of her crude timeline, one can surmise that her character is in need of an extreme makeover). Clearly, this is a troubled girl. I pray that Alyssa’s heart is filled with love before she self-destructs. I pray that she gets the help and support she needs to become a productive member of society.
No one is filled with such hatred by accident. This is a learned trait. Negative influences are at work somewhere in Alyssa’s life. The good news is that she can learn to turn the negatives into a positive picture. Love is an excellent teacher. The most effective way to kill the hate is by uprooting it with kindness. Take the time to unmask the hurt that’s hiding behind someone’s hatred- the horror of their story. It’s beyond racism, bigotry, prejudice, political affiliation, discrimination, or intolerance. What you will most likely find is a person who wrestles with fear, self-doubt, rejection, and low self-esteem. Rather than discarding the offender as useless “trash” (as many have labled Ms. Douglas), pick them up where they’ve fallen and literally love the hurt away. How do I know it works? The Lord did it with me.
“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” ~Mahatma Gandhi
We will never EVER progress as a people if we don’t start advancing our scholarship of commonsense. We have to stop blaming others for our failures and own up to our own shortcomings. Name calling, finger pointing and tit-for-tat behavior is a bunch of elementary school child’s play. As Christians, we must stop signing up for Superficial Christianity 501 and seriously start doing as Jesus would do. We can’t effectively build God’s Kingdom by consistently withdrawing from Loving Kindness/Tender Mercy 101 just because it’s easier to receive Grace than give it. We must submit to higher learning. We have to grow up.
What grade would you give yourself for your role in resolving conflict? How well are you doing with becoming more Christlike? Are you passing or failing? The next time life offers you an opportunity to do better, make every effort to pass the test the first time. I know I will. Then take what you’ve learned and help another failing student to improve their grades. It’s no fun (and so unproductive) repeating the same class over and over because you were too stubborn to do well, do good, and help someone else do better.
“Make every effort to be at peace with everyone and to be holy; for without holiness it is impossible to see the Lord.” ~Hebrews 12:14
~The Practical Chick