Everywhere I look on the interwebs, it seems like there’s an entire group of people getting seriously offended over something, and often they’re making an enormously big deal over it. I do it too, sometimes, I mean, I am human. There are things that fire me up that in the greater scheme of things, mean very little. For example: people chewing with their mouths open. It makes me practically murderous. It makes me cringe to even write about it! I could rant for an hour, easily (and the science is still out on whether that makes me someone who has OCD or just brilliant).
More recently, there have been a few public debacles that made parts of society go from mellow to ballistic in a matter of a few hours. I’m sure each of you could name a few that hit close to home, such as the recent Starbucks Red Cup Where-Are-You-Christmas outrage, for one. From our perspective at The Scientific Parent, some of the furious feedback we get in response to the content we post on our blog, Facebook, and Twitter, for another. And the countless stories we hear about or are personally involved with surrounding politics, healthcare, crime, violence, parent-shaming, birth-shaming, in-law-shaming? The offense covers all areas, and goes on and on…and on. So much offense. So much outrage. It seems like there’s so little peace among us sometimes, doesn’t it?
I’ve thought on this long and hard while running this blog with Leslie, that it seems that everyone is really just looking for a group to belong to, for that sense of belonging that makes life okay, to do the right thing to make things turn out “right,’ and sometimes, to be part of a “right” team against a “wrong” team. I know I’ve done it. We probably all have at one point or another. As that goes, from our perspective, it seems that feeling personally offended is a natural defense mechanism to when you feel you’re being accused of being on the “wrong” side of something, or your choices are being judged as the “incorrect” ones to make. Hello, parenting 101. You will feel like this constantly, no matter what side of the mythical “right/wrong” line you’re on.It goes deeper than that, however. Bear with me for a moment. A wise professional development coach asked me once (or maybe many times), while I was sorting through some feedback I’d gotten that really upset me – “what do you make it mean about you?”
Read that, one more time please. When someone says something to you, or about you, and you take it personally, what are you making their comments mean about you as a person?
As a kid, when my parents would tell me I was being lazy, I always took that to mean I was a bad kid, and I would get really upset and angry. In reality, they were simply telling me in their own way that I shouldn’t be laying across my bed reading while my room looked like a clothing bomb had gone off around me.
And there it is, my fellow humans. From lazy to a bad person. In an instant, in my own little child-like reality.
From the youngest ages, we generally don’t take anything we hear or see at face value. We attach a meaning to it that stems from our own context and view of how life is and should be. And when something doesn’t jive with that life-context of ours – we get upset, or we get offended, or we internalize it – and we react.
So Starbucks is not emphasizing Christmas on its cups this year? The alleged offense: Starbucks hates Jesus. Does it say somewhere on their cup, on their website, or in their stores that Starbucks hates Jesus? No. It doesn’t. But for some people, that’s what they have decided that the coffee chain’s actions meant. And while I don’t agree personally (I have no side on this), I can suspend my own opinion long enough to get that, if your life-view includes the idea of a paper cup design being meaningful to an annual tradition that you tie in to your faith, it would make sense that you might be super upset about the change.
The point to this, dear readers, is that when something bothers each of us, we might want to take a moment to step back and try to look at it objectively, or, dare I say it, scientifically. Over something as minor as a paper cup design, we saw people break into factions, the rights vs. the wrongs… which, really, is not unlike the terrain that is modern parenting. And since we’re The Scientific Parent, let’s look a bit closer at that.
Parents try to self-categorize into parenting tribes; of attachment parents, peaceful parents, free range parents, permissive parents, tiger and elephant parents. There’s nowhere to register these parenting identities, no test to get into them or to be certified as one. You’ll see vehement arguments over screen time, time-outs, organic foods. Trivial issues that sometimes mar relationships between friends and family, over the need to do things, think things, the “right” or “wrong” way, as though life is binary.
When one of our authors talks about co-bedding statistics and SIDS risks, does it mean you’re a bad mother or father if you co-bed with your infant? Absolutely not. It means that co-bedding has inherent risks that these particular studies have captured, and it’s something worth looking at and reviewing in favor of the safety of your child.
When a mother writes about choosing to vaccinate her children after struggling with the decision, and faces fall-out with her children’s ill health as a result, does that mean she’s a bad parent, a bad person, or trying to persecute anti-vaccination home-schooling families? No, it doesn’t. It just means she’s a mother who’s struggled over a decision (like all of us) and is facing a health crisis in her home. The rest of us are the ones who tack on allllll of the bad, wrong, right, good, what-have-you meanings. She’s just a mother who’s speaking to her experience and trying to explain how she didn’t understand the risks she faced until the probabilities stacked against her. We can’t necessarily cram her into a tidy black-or-white category just to validate our own feelings and opinions.
It’s a lot of energy to expunge to exhaustively attack one another over these things, when everyone is just trying their best, don’t you think?
As we move into this holiday season, I hope that all of us take a moment to check in with our internal dialogue and see what we’re saying when we get upset with ourselves, and with others. We have an opportunity to foster connection and understanding among us all, by slowing the offense-train down to a crawl and really trying for even a moment to understand each other’s experiences in life and where people are coming from.
Just like all of you, some offenses make complete sense to me, and some of them don’t at all. But, offense is truly in the eyes and ears of the beholder. So what do you make it all mean about you?