We all know it. All is not lost and there is hope but, right now, as a civil society, we are in trouble.
In recent months, we’ve seen three separate incidents of murder and massacre in our schools. Granted, one incident was carried out by an adult, but even in that situation, in his suicide note, he referenced events that occurred twenty years earlier as the root cause for his actions. Within hours, often before the number of victims is released, we’re bombarded with talk about guns and controlling them. Events in cities like Chicago prove that fix isn’t a fix at all, and yet that’s what we hear. We are not bombarded with discussion of the root causes of the problem.
No, the topic of discussion today isn’t school safety—though that is certainly a critical and worthy discussion. The topic of this discussion is to say what’s whispered behind closed doors everywhere, but people are reluctant to speak about publicly because it isn’t politically correct, and frankly, we’re all sick to death of verbal wars, assault and battery.
Today’s topic is to baldly state, friends, we are not taking care of business at home.
With so many single-parent households—and we have to work to eat and provide—and so many dual parent households where both parents work outside the home—we have survived the “it’s all about me” phase but we’re dealing with its legacy.
What is the legacy? Materialism. Not all of us, but overall, we learned that trait pretty well, and we’ve passed it on to our children. Our motives were good. We wanted better and more for our kids than we had, so we over-compensated, and as a result, we’ve got a generation of people who feel the world revolves around them. That the world owes them what they want—it’s their right. What we want is more important than what is right for us.
This legacy has left us totally out of balance.
We’ve forgotten that we’re three-dimensional human beings. We are physical, emotional and spiritual. And to have balance—real balance—the kind that gives us inner peace and contentment, we have to pay equal respect to all three.
Materialism falls into the physical. So does the fixation on being young and beautiful—perfect in every way. I just saw a show where a thirteen-year-old girl was having breast implants. Another, fourteen, was having a nose job. Both surgeries were gifts from their parents. What are we thinking that surgeries this extensive and this invasive are being done solely for cosmetic purposes? Neither of these girls were scarred or had emotional trauma due to their appearance. Both just wanted perfection.
Then we see Hollywood’s icons, those our kids try to emulate, and we see anorexia and substance abuse—horrific challenges—and our kids suddenly feel too fat and are willing to take drastic measures to combat their own weight. Drastic, unhealthy measures.
While we all want our kids to strive to be their best, does that mean they have to be perfect? Can anyone measure up to that? Should they have to?
When did we forget that our unique individuality lies in our imperfections? Our little flaws that endear us to those who love us? That create appeal to those we want to attract? Why don’t we celebrate those things instead of allowing ourselves and our kids to fall under the “nothing less than perfect stands” umbrella mentality?
Balance. We need balance. For ourselves and our kids. Without it we become dysfunctional, and if kids learn what they live—and they do—then how can they help but be dysfunctional, too.
As adults, it’s our job to do not what is popular, but what is right for ourselves and our kids. If we’re out of control, then they’re out of control. That brings us to …
We’re working hard. We’re rushed—too much to do, too little time. Responsibilities hang onto us like leeches, and we’re tired. So tired, and yet there’s so much more to do.
Our lives are hectic. We have all these conveniences that are supposed to make life easier, and they do—except we get in the way. The time we “save” we fill up with other obligations, new responsibilities. We don’t reduce the number of things we do so that we can enjoy a little more quality time with our families.
More often than not, we finish dinner, the kids file off to their rooms and are either on the computer or parked with headphones listening to music. Talking is interrupting. Being in the same house qualifies as being together.
If we’re not talking, how do we know what’s going on in each other’s lives? How do we bond?
I remember years ago a commercial, “Parents, it’s Nine O’clock. Do you know where your kids are?” There was a flipside one, too. “Kids, it’s Nine O’clock. Do you know where your parents are?”
Too many of us can glibly say, “Sure, on the computer. Sure, in his or her room doing homework.” But is she? Is he? And exactly what is s/he doing on that computer?
We’ve got a lot of angry kids out there. We’ve raised them, largely by not being as involved in their lives as parents should be. We think we are involved because we’re in the same house. But we really have no idea who they are, their dreams and opinions, their ideas. We don’t really know what they’re doing.
If we deal with our issues and remain emotionally healthy, the odds of us raising emotionally healthy kids isn’t guaranteed. There are too many other influences. But they’ll have the foundation we’ve helped build in them for guidance and that increases our odds and theirs.
Will it always be pleasant? No. But an investment in yourself for yourself and in your kids for your kids is always worthwhile.
And that leads to the third part of what we need to be balanced and find that harmony and contentment and inner peace.
I’m not talking about religion. I’m talking about the spiritual facets of us. The part of us that knows right from wrong, can define good and bad. The part of us that deals with things like loyalty, integrity, honesty, morals and ethics.
In the last two decades, there’s been a decided shift of focus away from these things. And we all see the results. People out of control. Domestic terrorism. Self-interest elevated to a more significant position than what at core level is right. That “if it’s good for me, I’m doing it. I don’t care who gets hurt” attitude that is toxic to a civil society.
I remember a few years ago being at a conference. One of the speakers was asked a question about how she got to such an elevated position so quickly. Her response was that she did whatever she had to do. And if she knocked people down on the way, she said excuse me as she stepped over their corpses.
We have too many corpses. And too many who feel repulsed by that kind of conduct but don’t complain because it isn’t prudent. The absence of voicing dissent has come to be interpreted as acceptance. And before you know it, everyone’s acting that way and tossing their visions of what is right and wrong and appropriate conduct right out the window.
Bluntly put, our collective ethics need serious work. Our morals need an overhaul—and emphasis. We need to get our collective act together.
In our effort to be tolerant and nonjudgmental, we have again overcompensated, and the consequences we’re paying for that error are steep. We can’t mention God (that’s intolerant, inconsiderate of others) yet we do tolerate and welcome violent, sexually explicit and emotionally degrading shows and music and opinions/essays—some clips of which can easily be found on the evening news. (Remember not too long ago, the evening news was so graphic that our six-year-olds were asking us questions like: What is oral sex?
I’m not advocating censorship. That said, we create markets for types of shows and attitudes through our control of what comes into our homes. I’m advocating parental responsibility and personal control and personal censorship. As in, if it is good and constructive, we permit it in our homes and lives. If it is destructive, we don’t. The problem is too often there is no personal censorship. Meaning, we don’t deliberately decide no, this isn’t for me or my family, and turn away from it. Talking to our family and saying, this is not something I want in our lives, and this is why, then speaking openly and honestly about the subject. Even some television commercials make us decidedly uncomfortable. But do we teach our kids how to react constructively to that by turning the TV off? Walking away from the destructive?
We cannot control the world. That is a fact. One that makes it imperative we prepare our children to live constructively in the world. Too often, we aren’t giving the kids the tools—and they are not mature enough, even though some of them feel they are, to exercise discerning judgment.
That’s why they are the kids and we are the parents. By our actions, we teach them discerning judgment and to exercise it in a positive way.
My point is this: if our kids are angry and messed up, odds are one of two things are going on:
- We’re messed up and they’re emulating us.
- We’ve been too slack in guiding them so that they can develop the spiritual side of themselves and achieve a healthy balance.
WHAT DO WE DO?
We remember that…
Physical + Emotional + Spiritual = Balance
Then we get to work reclaiming our lives—and being there for our kids.
- Look at your life and the lives of your kids. Not what you “think” but what you know. Is quality of life there? Are all three aspects of you and your kids being addressed and are those aspects integrated in your daily lives. Church isn’t just for Sunday morning. The principles and tenets are a lifestyle choice.
- Are you addressing issues? Listening?Hearing? Do you encourage discussion on ideas and ideals? If you haven’t instilled an appreciation and understanding of morals and ethics in your children, in yourself, wherever shall either of you get them? You can’t dictate these things to yourself or to your kids. You have to live them; they’re as much a part of you as breathing. Each of us has an internal moral compass. Assure that yours is healthy.
- Don’t fall under the false impression that your kids will do what you say.They will watch you, learn from you, and do what you do. Lead by example.
- We have lost respect for boundaries—those lines it is just unacceptable to cross. We do and say things we know we shouldn’t because we want to—and just because we can.Consideration weighs too little, our discretion on what is acceptable and what is not has grown warped. We need to get a hammer and chisel and get into shape. All boundaries are not bad. All limits are not bad. We hear slogans like “No Limits.” We’re told, “There are no boundaries except for those you set yourself.” Again, overcompensation. Some boundaries and limits are healthy and good, and we shouldn’t toss them out with the ones that would keep us from reaching our full potential. For example, this week a congressional representative resigned under pressure for inappropriate behavior toward a minor. Word came out that certain individuals were aware of it three years ago. Yet the conduct wasn’t halted. Only now has a scandal erupted and forced action. That is a faulty moral compass, and not just on the individual, but on those who knew and did nothing about it.
- Adults need boundaries. So do kids.Knowing the rules and consequences gives everyone a sense of security. I’m not suggesting being militant. I am suggesting that we all define “the best” and then integrate the morals and ethics, conduct and behavior into our lives that will enhance our ability and increase the likelihood that we achieve it.
- On the boundaries and rules we set, we should define and share the consequences.If you do this, expect this result and this consequence. If you do that, expect this result and this consequence. In years past, we toed the line because if we didn’t, we wouldn’t like the consequences. Today, too often, there are no consequences. That is a faulty moral compass.
- A male teen calls a phone sex line.The parents complain about the phone bill, not about the conduct. Faulty moral compass. Misplaced priority.
- A female teen “borrows” a parent’s cell phone and calls someone she has no business phoning.The parent’s response was that she wasn’t there, or she was there but asleep or otherwise occupied—justifying her inaction, but not addressing the conduct. Faulty moral compass. Misplaced priority.
- A teen goes online and uploads a post that is filled with filth.The parent’s response is that it’s good for the teen to speak his mind and get his frustrations out, not addressing the problem or the conduct. Faulty moral compass. Misplaced priority.
Why are these reactions deemed by the teens as acceptable? Because there are no consequences for inappropriate actions. There is no fear of consequences, no sense of propriety. No internal alarms going off that this kind of behavior is wrong. We have a lot of work to do on this front.
And it’s judicious work. We, being the adults, have to anticipate and be prepared for the impact of the actions we take and the impact of the consequences of those actions. Remember the old saying, “Every action causes a reaction? Every cause has an effect?” In many ways, by diminishing the consequences we’ve corrupted the impact. It is undesirable, but we can’t put the genie back into the bottle. We have to start where we are to modify our behavior and lead by example, then encourage our kids. And that brings us to…
Embracing what we’ve defined as good and healthy—for us and our family members. What is worthy of our time and attention and acceptable, beneficial and the kind of things we want to foster and what we want to eliminate—and must eliminate to find personal balance.
Will it be easy. Of course not. Change is never easy.
Can we do it? Of course. If we want to change badly enough, we certainly can.
It takes clarity of vision, determination, and discipline. We have those things—all of us do. We simply have to choose to tap into them and use them.
We can alter our reality. The reality we’re living is a reflection of the reality we’ve created. If we don’t like it, then we must embrace those things necessary to change it.
I hope we do. I hope that we can reel in that which is out of control. That we can rededicate ourselves to creating personal balance and then extending that balance to our children through example.
If and when we do that—strive for that balance, honoring the physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of us—then, and only then, will we have done our part to cure the root ails in our society. Only then will we have accepted that responsibility for the way things are comes down to you and me and what we accept and reject.
Only then will we embrace balance, and through it, contentment and inner peace.*