They may do that, but we do NOT

It’s getting harder to teach my children civility when they see mature adults deliberately flouting the law.

Like right here:

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We were at the grocery store waiting for my daughter when a seemingly healthy man around 60 and wearing nice vacation clothes pulled his Subaru up to this sign. I watched as he eyed it, pondered it, then shut off his car and got out. Astonished and knowing he saw the sign, I watched as he took a bag of trash to a can at the front of the store. But he wasn’t just tossing garbage; he took a cart then went in. This wasn’t a quick trip; he was shopping.

As I blinked in confusion, I heard, “Why’d he do that?”

Yessirree Bob, you who broke the law: a 13-year-old saw you ignore legal parking spaces ALL AROUND us, and saw you instead choose to do whatever you wanted.

“That’s against the law, isn’t it? Parking where you shouldn’t?”

Think about this: how are kids supposed to become civilized adults respecting the law when they see seemingly-respectable adults deliberately ignore it?

And people wonder how seeds of anarchy are planted, how civilizations crumble. It’s this way, folks. Seriously–THIS WAY. It starts with our youth witnessing selfish arrogance, and their own begins to grow.

Except when kids have moms like me who don’t put up with that behavior.

Fuming quietly, I said, “That IS against the law, and even though he may choose to do that, we do NOT.”

Now I try very hard to always think the best story about people, to assume goodness or innocence when something seemingly bad is happening. So perhaps this man has early signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s and the sign confused him (a worrying thought since he’s driving); or maybe, because marijuana is legal in this state, he was buzzed (another worrying thought since he’s driving); or maybe he can’t read English and didn’t understand the sign (which is doubtful because he could have seen where the other dozen cars were parked and easily deduced where he should leave his Subaru).

Still, no matter what the reason, what an impressionable youth saw was an adult showing no regard for the law, or anyone else for that matter.

This is a huge problem.

I still believe in respecting the law, in treating others with kindness, and in doing what’s right even if–

No, ESPECIALLY when no one else seems to care.

So to my son I said, “Look how his car is blocking traffic, how he’s created a dangerous situation. People can’t see around him at that intersection. The sign is there to protect everyone, and he’s causing problems by his behavior.”

Don’t misbehave around me, because my duty as a mother demands that I draw attention to the behavior and teach my children what is acceptable and what is NOT.

Disrespect is exploding everywhere. I’ve written before how I’ve told my kids why I’ve “hidden” a number of adults they know on my Facebook feed because they won’t post anything civil. Name-calling, ridicule, snarkiness–none of that is ever acceptable behavior, but now it’s become a pastime.

Two days ago I came across a house listing posted on Facebook by someone with a large following. It wasn’t her house, but because she found its decor gaudy and over-the-top, she went out of her way to hold it up in a public place to mock the owner of the house. She went so far as to insinuate that certain religious groups “helped” the seller create such an “outrageous” house.

More than 80 people joined in the public derision of this innocent home owner’s pride and joy. All she was trying to do was sell her house. She didn’t deserve to be bullied, and that’s what it was: bullying.

Even more disgraceful was that many who commented were those I knew who claimed to be Christians.

It was if they forgot that Christians don’t bully one another. They don’t post snide comments about anyone–public figures, politicians, neighbors, random people they’ve never even met–no one.

And Christians certainly aren’t supposed to deliver hell to someone. My heart ached for this home owner who would undoubtedly discover how she’d become the object of ridicule simply because her decorating tastes were different than others.

This is not how grownups are supposed to behave. We should have outgrown this childishness back in 8th grade. Immaturity, selfishness, and disrespect is what causes civilizations to collapse. These seemingly-little moments of, “The rest of the world can go to hell; I’m going to do and say and write what I want” will be the downfall of us all.

Because the younger generation is watching. My kids, your kids, someone else’s kids are learning from adults, and what they’re learning is, Anything goes.

Why do adults treat others so horribly? The best I can guess is that they are arrogant yet also insecure. They can feel superior only by trying to show others to be inferior. They’re not interested in building up the world, but in tearing it down so they might have a chance to stand on top of the rubble in some position of authority.

But it won’t work. You can never increase your confidence while putting down someone else’s. Just because more people are engaging in selfishness, arrogance, and bullying doesn’t make any of it right; all of that just makes the world nastier.

There are, however, adults who do behave properly, and being a mother demands that I also point out their civility to my children.

For example, a gentleman I know–and he is a true gentleman whom I’ve award the Internet Civility Award to–is plagued almost daily by a childish adult who posts on his Facebook page why this gentleman should no longer be friends with those of a certain religion. And every day this gentleman kindly says, “Thank you for your input, but your statements don’t change my mind.”

Then his attacker–and he does attack–goes off on a furious rant against this kind man, throwing at him all kinds of vitriol as if the gentleman deserves such rancor for his willingness to befriend others from different walks of life.

The gentleman never rises to the fight, but always walks nobly away.

I watch closely other truly mature adults, men and women who encourage, instruct, and gently, kindly admonish others to live a little better, to be a little kinder, to be more Christlike. Their posts are loving, heartfelt, earnest.

And never, ever mean.

They are my heroes, the ones I also point out to my children and say, “They do this, and so should we.”

4 thoughts on “They may do that, but we do NOT

  1. I had a friend who lived in Iowa. He taught his children Gospel standards such as “Latter-day Saints do shop or do recreational activities on Sunday.” When he moved to Utah, his children saw lots of “Latter-day Saints” doing all the things that he had taught were wrong. He wished he had stated it differently and defined it more clearly.

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    • Oh, boy. Can o’ worms, right there. While living in Utah, my husband worked for a national retail chain which berated him for having low sales on Sundays. They’d sent in “spies” to see who was in the stores, deduced by the church clothes that my husband’s argument that LDS (our valley was 85% LDS) don’t shop on Sundays wasn’t valid, because there they were–looking, but not buying. As a result, he as manager was REQUIRED to work 3 out of 4 Sundays each month to convince those folks to purchase something, not just window shop.
      After a year he quit that job because it really got to him–the Sundays at work, and those who caused him to be there.
      Excellent point about defining our expectations clearly. I find it best to always go back to what God expects of us–not society, not our family or culture, but God. He’s a lot harder to argue with.

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  2. “Thank you God for all you have taken from me” . . . I’ve never heard that before, but oh–profound! Sounds like something Job would write.

    It is a tough situation with slippery slopes all around, and great fodder for discussions, no doubt. And as long as we’re all talking, we have hope, right?

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  3. I empathize with you on this subject, there are no easy answers. I tried to tell my sons, when they were children, that choosing to do wrong is a slippery slope that gets steeper and steeper the further you go down until you loose site of what is right.
    Being my children they made it a point to correct or challenge me on a large number of my own choices. Which really frustrated me, but made me grow and opened discussions with them.
    (I guess that was the point of those humanity classes that I tried to avoid in school.)
    Perhaps a Guide might have said, “They did not do well on that test and we can pray that they will do better on the next one.”
    The next question I learned from my children was how to chose and set boundaries.

    “Thank you God for all you have given me, Thank you God for all you have taken from me and Thank you God for all I have yet to receive.”

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