Exclusivity is a no-no. It is intolerant, narrow minded and offensive. We don’t like it when people speak too strongly about right and wrong, in and out. It hurts feelings, is judgmental and shows an ugly pride.
The problem is that this notion is paradoxical. “We can be sure of nothing!” begs the question, “Are you sure?” The same is true with “There are no absolutes!” Yes, of course… “Absolutely!” See the problem? Exclusivity is a no-no. So, you are excluding those who exclude? It isn’t right to say that something is wrong? These arguments just don’t hold water.
Of course, the notion behind most of these statements is that it is unkind to dismiss the beliefs of others or to outright condemn people for their philosophies and behavior. The preschool lessons to get along are well ingrained in our society, and haven’t really developed beyond a preschool mentality to just be nice. And who doesn’t think being nice is wrong all by itself?
What is ‘nice,’ though? Is it always agreeing all the time? That really would keep us all as preschoolers, never allowing ourselves to discuss anything beyond the most elementary (heh heh) topics. Most of us weren’t made for that. Life has complexities and we need to work through them. For us to live a life with any meaning, we have to make choices. Any choice for something is also a choice against at least one other something. If we bind ourselves to this idea that choosing against things, excluding, is offensive, we imprison ourselves in a false world of the ever-yes. It doesn’t exist and so it paralyzes us.
So, we make choices. We must. And the choices necessarily exclude. We disagree. If we are going to graduate from preschool, we have to learn how to do this without being ugly. But we also have to grow up enough to allow OTHERS to choose and exclude and NOT be offended by it! The reason we teach three and four year olds to be kind in the form of inclusiveness is because they are spending time with other three and four year olds who are only just developing their fragile egos and necessarily require some tender handling.
When I taught, I worked hard to not tell the kids their guesses were outright wrong, because in spite of whatever topic currently being explored, the real lesson was for the child to try, experiment and be bold. Getting the answer right was in fact irrelevant to my true goal, so I said, ‘You answered so quickly.’ ‘Keep trying.’ Guess again.’ ‘Look here for a clue.’ ‘Thank you for sharing.’ ‘So close!’ ‘I see why you can think that.’ ‘Have you thought about this?’ ‘I see you working so hard.’ ‘Don’t give up!’ Instead of using the word no, I would say yes, after… Or yes, as soon as… Or yes, once we…
This encouragement was always on my lips as my kids struggled to learn and grow and master. I modeled it and expected the kids in my care to use similar sentiments as they offered help to their peers. I wanted my kids to see themselves as able, to see the world as full of possibilities. The phrases that became part of my being conveyed sky’s-the-limit concepts that would best equip my kids to face challenges with confidence.
I don’t regret this. I believe it is right and good. Eventually, however, the word no must be used. Limits are set. Choices are made. We need to teach kids—and be adults who model—to accept this without it crushing them. We have failed, in my opinion to handle this part of child rearing, and we now have a society of people who seem to LOOK to be hurt.
One of the contributors to this easily offended mentality is the importance we place on the court of public opinion. We live to please others, to garner praise and recognition. So, when someone disagrees, it is a deeply personal blow. We have to realign our sense of selves to EXCLUDE the need for homogeny.
My family chooses to not participate in our local soccer league. We have reasons; some are reasonable and others are totally emotional and reactionary. Regardless of our reasons and their validity, I am often astounded when I meet with hostility because of our choice. I have friends who have raised their voices at me because I don’t sign my kids up for this particular sport! Why on earth is this an issue?
Soccer is silly and passing. But what about bigger things that truly matter and have lasting impact? We have to be ok with people choosing creeds, lifestyles and philosophies that go against our own choices. We have to handle the disagreement as an honest disagreement without it being an affront. That means I don’t have to pretend that all choices are ok with me, and neither do you. It also means that I cannot place the obligation to keep me happy on every individual who lives in my city, state, country and world!! And, yet, that is essentially our final destination here: you aren’t a small-town, home-birthing, home-schooling, home-churching, stay-at-home-momming, family oriented, geekifying, game-playing, food-loving, mission-supporting, conservative-ish Christian person?? Well, fie on you!
See how lonely I’d be? Not to mention totally ineffective in any endeavor I’d like to accomplish.
So, make choices that exclude and be honest about it. Allow others to do the same. Choosing a faith in anything other than Jesus Christ should not offend me even though I believe that Jesus is the only Way, Truth and Life. Being offended by Joe who believes differently dictates that Joe is obligated to smooth my ruffled feathers—a total paradox to what I claim!! If Jesus is the ONLY way, why would I allow Joe the power to upset me and require Joe to change in order for me to be at peace? That is a whole lotta Joe and a whole lotta me involved in a world view I purport to be Christ-focused. That is utterly nonsensical.
We have to stop blending the line between offense and disagreement. They are not the same.