Our world is more connected than ever, and yet more disconnected. We have access to most anyone’s lives, thoughts, beliefs, opinions…and we have the ability to instantaneously respond with our own. And we have a screen to shield us as we do it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-technology. I use it for work. We use it for my kids’ education. I would be lost and dead in the middle of nowhere without the fabulous invention of GPS coming standard in phones! And some people are just as mean when they emerge from behind their screen. But lately, reading the posts and comments being thrown out across social media, it’s been breaking me in a whole new way to see how very callous people have become to the power that lives within their words, whether typed or spoken.
Maybe it’s that I’ve always lived in awe of words. Whether I’m writing them, reading them, or listening to them…words captivate and affect me like nothing else. Maybe it’s that I’ve been intentional about making 2020 a year to listen, observe, learn, and grow. But mostly, my heightened sensitivity to the way I see people speaking to one another is impacted by being a mother. I’ve started viewing the world through the lens of “this is the world I will be releasing my babies into”.
Like most every mom, I want so deeply to be able to shield my children from the harsh words of others. Whether they are words hurled from the mouths of their peers or from adults who never quite learned kindness and empathy, each one is an arrow that is aimed directly at my child and lodges itself deeply at the center of my heart. Entering into the world of special needs parenting, I’ve found a whole new quiver full of arrows laced with malice and ignorance that I was naïve enough to believe in this day and age were few and far between until the target got placed on the backs of our family.
Navigating the determined ignorance and hatred in a society where there is more than enough access to resources to become educated and empathetic is mind boggling. And it’s convicting. How many times had I carelessly launched arrows from the safety of the castle built with my comfort, privilege, and ignorance? Whose babies did I wound? How many fellow mothers had I unwittingly attacked? And if I didn’t release the arrow from my own bow, did I stand and watch silently as it left someone else’s?
I’ve come to believe now that it is equally important, maybe even more so, to be aware of how I speak my opinions and beliefs as it is to be aware of what my opinions and beliefs are and why I hold them. It is crucial for me to hold each one under a microscope, always challenging them, and seeking to root out any that have no purpose other than to wound others. I must constantly be observing and responding from this perspective: “What if this were my baby? How would I wish for others to treat them? In what way do I hope they are spoken to? In what way do I hope others would care for them? Would I want someone else to stand and fight with them? Would I shield my own child from this? Would I advocate for change for them in this scenario? Would I berate and belittle this person if their face was that of my own child? What. If. This. Were. My. Baby?”