I know this is grossly outside my normal writing, but when thinking about what to write today, I struggled with my normal content because there really is so much happening in the world. I am witnessing many of my new sober friends struggling with addiction, in part, because of all the stress associated with COVID-19 and the recent escalation of social injustices taking place in American and around the world. I thought to myself, why does this keep happening? I took a long look at myself and asked myself, why have I been able to remain strong and unwavering in my dedication to remain sober and grow as a person? My answer was in a simple truth that I have begun to love and respect myself. That newfound love and respect for myself has driven my desire to love and help others. If I can do it, that means others can do it. If others can do it, then we all can do it.
In light of everything that is going on in the world, I thought I would deviate from my core belief series to write about some of the most simplistic forms of the human condition. They are in our nature and virtually take no energy to access and employ in our daily lives. We do not have to premeditate the use of them or worry about any consequences as a result. Every human person has experienced them as a giver and a receiver many times, and we have all appreciated them and were thankful for them from each perspective. They perpetuate themselves because when present, a person naturally wants to share them with others. They are difficult to ignore or argue with because, at their core, they are the definition of purity. We all know that we want them in our lives, we all know that we want to offer them to others, we all know that they are imperative in living good lives, we all know that they can make the difference in each other's lives, we all know this; yet, we continue to struggle with them personally and as a society.
"No one can love you until you love yourself, and you cannot love anyone else until you love yourself." - Charles Raymond Barker
If the preceding statement is true, then the first step is learning how to love ourselves. I know we have all heard the quotes about loving ourselves. They resonate with us and we agree with them, but how many of us actually take the time to ask ourselves the question, do I love myself? More importantly, how many of us answer the question honestly. I know I have struggled with this my entire life. My parents were not affectionate people, we did not hug, we did not express love, we did not really show love other than being present (physically) and not leaving. Although, that happened in the end too. When I look back on my family, I would say we were a functional family, kind of like a functional alcoholic. On the outside, everything looked perfectly normal and even all American. But underneath, there was a lot of history and there were many struggles taking place with every member; either personally and or familially. Nevertheless, not witnessing love made loving my self more difficult not to mention loving others.
We all have our reasons why the idea of loving ourselves is difficult. For some of us, it begins in the family, for others, it may be a history of personal failures or bad relationships that broke our spirit and caused us to forget how to love ourselves. Regardless of how we got here until we all learn how to love ourselves again, we will continue to build a society of people who cannot love each other. If we do not love ourselves and that means we cannot love each other then how can we expect to ever live in a world where kindness perpetuates itself? Unfortunately, we cannot.
We can talk about the problems our world is having with race, sex, sexuality, culture, religion, or socioeconomics all we want, but until we can look in the mirror and see a person looking back at us that we approve of and love, we are going to struggle to treat anyone else with true kindness. Why? Because in order to truly be kind, we have to feel worthy of kindness. If we do not feel worthy of kindness, then we cannot be kind to ourselves and subsequently, we struggle to show kindness to others.
I do not mean for this to be an overgeneralization of society as a whole. I know there are amazing people out there who show kindness and love. I even believe most of us are able to show it occasionally too. I am talking from a holistic sense. How many of us are consistently aware of everyone else around us? How many of us truly empathize with and try to understand the struggles of others? How many of us willingly give up our needs for the needs of another? How many of us never look down on another person? How many of us truly relate to the chaos happening in the world today?
Of the questions, I just posed, how many of them are unattainable? Of the questions, I just posed, how many of them are difficult? Of the questions, I just posed, how many of them are possible? I'll let you answer those questions for yourself, but when you do, be honest. My concern is that most of us can answer all of the questions positively if we are able to be more specific, if the scope is more narrow, if we can pick and choose the scenarios. Unfortunately, that negates the point of the questions.
The proper, acceptable, and preferred use of pronouns is a growing issue in the world today and rightfully so. With that said, I would like to focus on pronouns that I believe to be at the root of many of the social issues present today. These pronouns are divisive and discordant and border on offensive depending on the context in which used, yet I hear these pronouns used every day.
Grammatically speaking, they/them is used to refer to people or things separate from or at a distance from ourselves. We can use the pronoun to refer to a group of cyclists racing on the road. "They are racing a hundred miles to the finish." In this example, "they" refers to any sex, ethnicity, sexual preference, size, or skill level present in the group of cyclists participating in the race. It is not divisive, sexist, or politically incorrect. It is simply a part of speech.
When used to address a specific group of people of one sex, ethnicity, sexual preference, religion, or belief, the validity of the statement almost always immediately breaks down. It is virtually impossible for all of any group to behave in any one manner. In a way, the use of they or them in this way is more superlative than anything else. If, when referring to cyclists, I said, all cyclists are tall, it would be the same as saying, they (cyclists) are all tall. This is inaccurate and an overgeneralization. This is how I feel about the pronouns when used to refer to people we perceive as 'other' than ourselves. As long as we overgeneralize any population of people we are creating a division between 'them' and everyone else. As long as we are divided, we can never think as one. As long as we think separately, we can never coalesce as a singular group of like-minded people who are capable of loving each other which is necessary for true kindness to occur.
If (they, them) are divisive because the pronouns refer to people outside what we perceive as the same then (we, us) are inclusive because the pronouns refer to people in general as one singular group. Think about how the use of the pronouns (we, us) could potentially affect the dynamic of problem-solving in the world. If someone says, they have a problem with __________, who is implied to be expected to fix the problem? Them. Conversely, if someone says, we have a problem with __________, who is implied to be expected to fix the problem? Us. What scenario has a better chance of creating a resolution? Even better, what scenario has a better chance of creating a lasting resolution? Obviously, the scenario that implies we and us. What kind of world would we live in if we all loved, respected, and accepted each other as humans?
Yes, it is a utopian ideal, but the only way to ensure it doesn't happen is to believe it can't.