Tolerance, validity, vulnerability

If everyone taught their kids at least to be tolerant of people who are different, it would help.

Tolerance is better than intolerance, but would you want to spend your life tolerated? It’s a better-than-nothing space, not an end goal.

If everyone taught their kids that their own emotions are valid and how to name them, gave them safe space to express them, gave them skills to express and manage them in appropriate ways, there would be less chronic anger, fewer people who can’t deal with their emotions, and, as a result, more openness to others’ experiences.

For example, the people who were the most judgmental (out loud) about my divorce were people struggling in their own relationships and not ready to tackle those problems head on. The problem wasn’t my divorce but what it stirred up in the others and their reaction to those feelings coming near the surface.

I regularly hear parents tell their kids that why they’re upset is silly or stupid. As adults, we’ve all been blown off: “It’s God’s will,” “You’ll be fine,” “It’s not that big a deal,” “That happened to me and I didn’t make a big deal about it,” and so on.

Maybe the reaction seems disproportional to those witnessing it, but to the person reacting, it’s real, and dismissing it doesn’t help them learn to be less reactive.

Of course, this means that most child-laden adults need to teach both their kids and themselves that their (our) emotions and experiences are valid; they (we) don’t need to take down others to either build themselves up or to avoid the pain of empathy.

“Child-laden adults” because it applies not only to parents but to all the people who work in any child-centered facility: schools, camps, places of worship, etc.

We need to lean into the discomfort of uncomfortable emotions. It’s not pleasant (discomfort and uncomfortable!) but it’s doable, and the rewards are well worth reaping on small and large scales.

Once we can be comfortable and secure in ourselves, we have more room for ambiguity. We know who we are, so the uncertainty of others’ differences is a curiosity, not a threat.

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