I was talking to my son the other day about kindness. And he (like lots of kids) gets it. He gets why we try to be kind to even people who aren’t kind to us. But, he doesn’t get why other people wouldn’t be kind to us.

But Mom, can’t someone MAKE them be nice?

I tried to explain to him that there are laws that people are supposed to follow, and that different cultures have different expectations of how people should behave, and that we would hope that everyone would follow the Golden Rule, but ultimately, we can’t force that.

People have free will. If they break laws, they may be punished according to that. And if they break rules (like in class, or at home), then they have consequences. But all of that is after the fact.

If someone chooses not to be a decent person; if someone chooses to hurt someone else, be it with a gun, or with words, there is nothing we can do until afterwards.

But Mom, why not?

Because if you start something like that; some system to force a Utopia; the end result will just be this but more, and worse. Like The Hunger Games. Or like The Giver.

Mom, that would be really bad.

Yes. But it’s frustrating, isn’t it?

Free will is not an attribute endowed by human power. It’s bigger than that. And if human beings attempt to direct or force “compliant” behavior from the population, that bigger instinct to be free will rebel.

The only possible outcome of a forced Utopia, until humans evolve into sentient beings of perfect, peaceful light (ha!) is utter destruction of the entire race.

We have to let people be who they want to be. We don’t have to like it, and we don’t have to like them, and we can choose to be mean to them, or to hurt them, or to retaliate. But all of this argument over who matters, and who’s perpetuating the violence, and when are we going to get ours, falls on collectively deaf ears.

Because it comes down to each individual person making a decision. And I can’t make yours, and you can’t make mine.

The part we can change is how we move forward with our new people. We made our way to adulthood with baggage. We were taught to submit, perhaps. Or to dominate. We were raised with prejudice against people who weren’t like us. Or with certain gender ideals and expectations.

We can teach our children the same old shit, or we can teach them something different. And they still have free will, and they will do what they decide to do. But we can teach them to stand up for what they believe in, and we can temper that with lessons in compassion. We can teach them to have power over themselves; over the things they choose to say to other people during times of turmoil, without backing down from what matters to them.

Fighting fair is not the same as being politically correct. It’s not about sparing egos or destroying them. It’s about being rational, and not letting everything be about feelings. Which is just as much about not lodging personal attacks as it is about not taking things personally.

Because, excuse me, but if you make a statement to me that is specifically intended to hurt me, then my only logical response is to take that personally. It doesn’t make me weak. It makes you cruel.

It all comes down to what kind of a person you want to be.

It all comes down to what kind of person I want to be.

I often think,

“If everyone would just ________, everything would be okay!”

But everyone is NEVER going to just ________. So I have to find another way.

I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, but I know I want it to be spelled right and punctuated correctly. I guess that’s something.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store