I was volunteering in the Grade 5/6 class this afternoon. A community police officer spent some time talking to the kids about “peer relationships”. How marvelous that these young people got to see a representative of the police force as approachable, engaging and funny. A real human being, not just a uniform and a gun belt.
Adam asked the students some questions. And I reflected on my life.
1. Have I ever punched, shoved or hit another person?
Gosh no. It’s so far away from who I am, and who I’ve been. My mouth drops open when I even imagine myself being violent with someone.
2. Have I ever threatened to hurt someone?
No. If I have differences with a person, or criticism about something they did or said, I want to talk it out, without antagonism.
3. Do I ever make fun of others, tease them or call them mean names?
No, except for playful teasing when I know that the other person sees I’m on their side. But never mocking them for being different than me, whether that’s personality, sexual orientation, age, race or ethnicity. To call a black person a “nigger” is completely foreign to me.
4. Do I often make fun of others because they’re different from my friends and me?
No. I love exploring the differences among us, in learning about folks whose lives are such a contrast to mine.
5. Do I gossip about other people? Do I spread rumours about them?
Heavens no. That’s an act of violence, both towards the other person and towards me. I can’t be happy if I’m aversive to someone else. I do talk about people who are not right there listening, but it’s in the spirit of fascination and interest, not criticism.
Having said all this, I’m no saint. Sometimes I don’t give folks enough space in their life, pressing forward in relationship when I need to back off some. Sometimes I speak without thinking, without really gauging the potential impact of my words. And sometimes I forget important things that people tell me. But through it all, through those unskillful moments, I know that my intentions are good.
There’s so much pain in the world and my commitment is to add very little to the total, while adding a lot to the sum of well-being.