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I recently had my second child and now find myself in a new role as the mother of two daughters. When I look at my daughters, I see pure love and goodness. But then I watch the news and see people divided because of their political beliefs, and others committing horrible hate crimes because of religion and race. And I can’t help but wonder, how can I make sure that my daughters, who live in an atmosphere that is so intolerant of difference, maintain their pure love and innocence? How can I keep them from becoming pessimistic or hateful themselves? As a mom, of course, I want my children to be healthy and happy; but above all else, I want them to love others despite their differences in opinion, religion, and skin color.
I often wonder how people can get so angry, so deep in their own convictions that they become deaf to anything that may differ or deviate from their beliefs. I’ve often been told that I’m way too open-minded, listening to others’ perspectives so openly and receptively that they become my own. Maybe that comes from the intense training and practice I’ve had in actively listening to others in order to really hear them, not to merely respond. Maybe it’s because I was brought up in a big city with parents who didn’t necessarily speak to me about respecting others but modeled it for me through their own actions. They treated everyone equally, from what I remember, never discriminating against others because they were different from us.
The conviction I hold deepest is that I don’t know what the ultimate truth is. I don’t have all the answers about what will make this country better, or which religion is the right one; I just know what I personally believe. Recognizing this humbles me and allows me to be more accepting of others’ differences. All of us are just trying to navigate this world with our own personal truths, trying our very best with what we know. So often, acts of hatred are a reaction to fear and anxiety that someone is encroaching upon our truth. Hate is fueled with uncertainty; when we feel unworthy of love, we have to blame our pain on a group of people we deem even less worthy. But when we’re secure in our beliefs, conscious of our worth, and aware that we’re truly loved, we can be surrounded by hate and yet never let it puncture our souls. We accept that others have differences, but we can still love those people, feeling secure in our own ideas.
As I raise my daughters in this world, I’ll try my best to show them love and compassion in all situations. When they misbehave, talk back, or break the rules, I’ll lovingly attach a consequence to their actions. I’ll be mindful of how I treat and speak to others, showing equal respect to everyone. I’ll be tolerant of their differing opinions and become open and curious about their ideas. My hope is that if I show my daughters unconditional love and acceptance, they’ll learn to show the same love to others—not seeing difference as a threat, but as a way to add richness to their very existence. It’s beautiful to live in a world filled with so many different philosophies, religions, cultures, and political views; it’s also very scary. But how boring would life be if we all thought the same way? If there was only one truth, there wouldn’t be much to passionately discuss or debate with each other.
I walk around with the belief that most people want what’s best for themselves and others, they just have different opinions about how to get there. It might sound naive, but if we don’t go around thinking others have bad intentions or are out to get us, if we understand that they’re usually coming from a place of love or insecurity, we can open our minds and reduce our inclination to hate. We can open our hearts to accept compassion and empathy. If I’ve learned anything in my years of practice, it’s that you don’t disarm a person with hate and judgment; you disarm them by truly listening without judgment. That’s an act of love that disarms the most volatile of couples and is used effectively by hostage negotiators, too. Most people just want to be heard. They can go to extreme lengths to have a voice, but it doesn’t need to get to the point of violence or verbal assault.
So, as I write this, holding the latest addition to my family, I’m fully aware that change begins with how I act and what decisions I make. I can’t change the world we live in. In fact, I don’t really want to. Every generation carries its own set of problems; all we have control over is how we respond to those problems. This is what I will teach my girls: how to control their own emotional world; how to hold onto love at the same time as their beliefs and values; how to remember that hate and anger are never the answer, and that tolerance and love will always take them further in life.