When my daughter was in fourth grade, I received an email from another mother.
“I just wanted to say how grateful I am that our girls are friends. A 5th grader started picking on Joy on the playground, and your daughter stood up for her. You are really raising her right!”
I felt proud that she stood up to this bully and hopeful that all those discussions about kindness and bravery resonated with her.
A few months later, I walked into the same daughter’s room to find bright pink nail polish on her brand new bedspread and carpet. I became irate. “You know you aren’t allowed to do your nails in your bedroom! What were you thinking?”
Tears immediately streamed out of her eyes. “I tried to tell Joy that she should do them in the bathroom, but she said it would be fine. She wouldn’t listen!”
After I calmed down and rational thought returned, I spoke to my daughter about it in more detail. I wanted to understand how she could stand up to a bully older than her, yet couldn’t get her friend to follow our house rules.
“Mom, I did tell her, but we’re best friends, and I didn’t want her to get mad at me, so I just let it go. I thought I was being a good friend,” she told me.
I have been thinking about these two events a lot this week. I remember the pride I felt when my daughter stood up to the bully, and the disappointment when she allowed a friend to walk over her when she knew the rules. How can this be the same kid?
“It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.”
—JK Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
No disrespect to Ms. Rowling, but I think it takes even more courage to stand up to our friends.
If you hold an account on Facebook or read any news on the Internet, you may have noticed a large amount of discourse lately as a result of the election. In my feed, there are people posting article after article substantiating their views. Here’re a few doozies I saw this week:
“How can the liberals say they stand for love and then riot and ruin people’s businesses?”
“Trump isn’t even elected yet, and minorities are being victimized all over America. It is like Hitler all over again!”
“Libtards are inclusive. As long as you think exactly like they do.”
“Republicans are misogynists. Republican women have been belittled for so long, they don’t even know it when they see it anymore.”
What I noticed this week: it is easy to stand up against our “enemies” and for what we see is “right.” It is much harder to stand up to our friends — the ones who think like us — when we see them going astray.
Take for example the violence that is occurring in our country each day as a result of the recent election. According to my conservative friends, the only atrocities happening right now are those due to the riots or perpetrated against Trump supporters (at least according to their Facebook posts.) Of course, my more liberal friends are documenting each heinous hate crime against a minority.
As we try to spread awareness to stop these vile acts, we end up creating an even larger divide by appearing hypocritical to our opposition.
An injustice is an injustice, even when it occurs by people within our own political parties, or even when committed by friends on social media.
Imagine the nodding by our friends who think differently than us if we acknowledged the mistakes of our affiliations. Imagine if we were less scared about appearing right, and more concerned with doing right.
For example, I appreciated when a Republican friend and staunch Trump supporter posted about her sadness when the President-elect appointed a questionable person as his chief policy strategist. It also was comforting to see a Democratic friend share her sadness when violence occurred in her hometown of Portland as the result of protests.
These small acts of bravery were the few posts on Facebook that received “likes” by members of both sides of the aisle and opened up meaningful discussions about what is going on in our country right now.
We must dig deep within ourselves to stand up for what we believe is right and pure and good with the groups and friends we align ourselves with, but more importantly, we must recognize their transgressions as well. By acknowledging what is wrong within our own circles, we bridge the gap with those who have different views.
We cannot stand idly by seeing only what we want to see, and only justifying our beliefs. There is no greater divider in a discussion than hypocrisy.
I don’t believe people who only substantiate their views do this with malicious intent; in fact, I believe the opposite. I think when people highlight atrocities by opposing groups they believe by raising the exposure they may change minds and bring it to an end.
But confronting what is wrong within your own political party, within your group, or within your friendships — well, that is powerful stuff. That’s the stuff that can cause change. That is the stuff we need our kids to see.
Because I need my daughter to speak up for the rules of our house, but more importantly, I want her to speak up for those who can’t speak up for themselves — even if that means going against her friends.
And change always starts from within.