"The human brain and heart that are met primarily with empathy
in the critical years cannot and will not grow to choose a violent or selfish life."
Robin Grille, Parenting for a Peaceful World
Again this week, I've heard news that broke my heart, news about young men doing horrible things. And while I sit with the shock and horror, I try to imagine what went wrong. What are these men missing, the men who rape and abuse, dehumanize and exploit, threaten and intimidate?
The horrors I'm reading about aren't perpetuated by immigrants, people of color, women, the LGBTQ community, or people in poverty. What I am shocked by again and again is violence committed by white men and boys living in relative comfort. White boys and young men who are habitually dehumanizing people different than themselves.
And whether this takes the form of an attack in a locker room or at a party, sexual exploitation, disdain and disrespect for those who look different, demonizing human beings for personal power, or the many other forms of in humanity that are happening right now in our country--it is wrong.
How did some of our boys and young men and old men get to this point in their lives? This question sent me back to Robin Grille's wonderful work and reflections on what our kids really need. Our children need love. Not the illusion of love that just wants them to be happy and comfortable, but the deeper love that both absolutely accepts them and holds them accountable.
Our children need to be allowed and encouraged and taught how to feel their feelings, not to hide them or act them out, but to feel them. Even the messy, unkind, or dark ones. They need to learn how to handle feelings with compassion, turning inward to care for themselves rather than turning their emotions outward onto other people. They need to know that they are loved and accepted for themselves, not for their behavior and accomplishments.
As women and moms, we need to rise up, loving all of humanity, the marginalized and lost and hurt and abandoned as well as the oppressors and bullies. But let's not confuse our love with permissiveness. Let's love in a powerful way that serves humanity and the earth rather than serving the current status quo. Let's love our children by accepting them even when they do unkind or even horrible things, but not excusing them from the real consequences of their actions. Let's not confuse love with permission or entitlement. And let's not abandon love by withdrawing our recognition of the humanity within every person, no matter what they look like or espouse.
I'm a mom, wife, daughter, friend, and teacher who has long struggled with the desire to be the perfect person I imagine that I should be. Practicing mindfulness has changed my life, helping me to make peace with myself as I truly am and to appreciate my family, life, and the world as they actually are.