Moms tend to set the moral barometer in the home, teaching children about table manners, acceptable social skills and the need to respect adults and those in authority. We navigate the sassy years, the rebellious years, and the defiant years believing that with any luck, the values we’ve instilled in our offspring will take root and bear fruit. That they will learn to engage in lively discussions without becoming boorish, that they will listen respectfully to teachers, professors and eventually bosses, even if they disagree with them. Basically that they will follow the Biblical admonition to respect those in authority.
Truth be told, any of us would be mortified if one of our children shouted out the words “You lie!” to a teacher during a classroom discussion. And yet we find ourselves at a chapter in our country’s history where this kind of outburst is considered defensible by some, under the umbrella of free speech.
This is not a political blog, so don’t start drafting rebuttals to what you think I’m about to say. I’m simply wondering how, as adults, we have managed to set such a low standard in terms of what is and is not acceptable behavior, standards we are modeling for our children, our youth, and the rest of the world. The South Carolina lawmaker’s outburst, in my opinion, is representative of the gradual yet steady erosion of certain values we used to hold dear; to me, the need to respect each other even in the face of huge ideological differences is essential if we are ever going to move forward as a nation, as families, or as individuals.
My last blog talked about my own failings when it comes to losing my temper. I too have been given to angry outbursts directed at my children, and have been publicly contrite about my admittedly bad behavior. When I looked at the replay of the lawmaker who impulsively heckled the president of the United States on national T.V., I felt embarrassed. I was saddened and angered the next day when I heard various talk radio personalities practically high fiving each other as they discussed the outburst. One particular pundit was ecstatic that someone finally had the “guts to speak their mind.”
Later, I sat down and talked to my children about what happened. My son, who just started middle school and is hyper aware of the concept of disciplinary consequences like detention, immediately wanted to know if the man who heckled the president would be punished. “Can the president fire him? Will he go to jail?” he asked. I told him I thought the main consequence was a high degree of shame and embarrassment. Like the kind I felt the last time I yelled at my kids in public.
So I guess my question is: When did we all become so angry that we have lost all measure of self control? And again, I don’t mean politically – I think what’s happening in that arena is symbolic of a greater national virus more insidious that any flu pandemic. We rage at store clerks who service us too slowly, hold wait staff in contempt if our order comes up wrong, think murderous thoughts toward drivers who dare to merge in front of us, and scream at teachers and coaches who constructively criticize our kids. We judge and demean those with different religious beliefs and sexual orientations than our own, and are puzzled why they don’t see things our way. Are they blind? Deceived? Stupid? Or is it possible that as we point our fingers in judgment, we really do, as the Scripture suggests, judge ourselves accordingly.
As a suburban mom, I’m not likely to solve the world’s ills any time soon. But I do want to give a call out to my fellow members of the “motherhood sisterhood” to remind us all that we remain among the most influential members of a society in moral decline. Our voices ring true and loud because they shape the next generation’s views and behaviors. Let’s take a stand. Let’s decide not to raise kids who use shout-each-other-down tactics to make a point, who slander those with different beliefs or lifestyle choices, or who show general disrespect for authority figures.
We begin by modeling good behavior. By treating our children and those around us with respect. By practicing the very things we preach.